The School of Education has concluded its search for a permanent dean and selected Dr. Lori Rakes, an associate professor of 13 years at FSC, to fill the position.
Florida Southern College started their search last semester when the dean application opened in September. While the search was ongoing, an interim dean was in place: Dr. Derrel Bryan, a faculty member that had prior leadership experience as a superintendent. Before him, Dr. Victoria Giordano served as the dean and she is now an associate provost.
Rakes went through the interview process and found out right before Christmas that she had gotten the job. Teaching for over 20 years now at various public schools in Polk County, Volusia County and now at FSC, Rakes has consistently enjoyed education. However, she wanted to do something different but still inside education.
“When the dean position opened up, I thought, ‘I think that’s where I want to go next,’” Rakes said. “I have that administrative background and I would like to use it now at the college level.”
Graduating with her master’s degree in Educational Leadership at the University of South Florida (USF), Dr. Rakes realized that public school administration wasn’t what she wanted to do. So, she stayed at USF and decided to get her doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction.
While in the process of attaining her doctorate, Rakes simultaneously began at FSC as a faculty member in Jan., 2011 after a position opened up.
“It kind of propelled me forward in where I wanted to go, which was teaching at the college level,” Rakes said. “I wanted to do that because I could make a larger impact on P-12 [preschool through twelfth-grade] students’ lives by pouring into pre-service teachers and those that are going to go out into our new generation of teaching and our teachers.”
From a young age, Rakes said that she loved teaching. She was going into her junior year of college as a music education major but decided to switch to elementary education, and she has “never regretted it.” After teaching piano lessons for a while, Rakes said that she really found herself in the classroom once she began teaching public school.
Now the dean of the education department, Rakes oversees scheduling and budgeting and ensures the program is running smoothly. There are multiple undergraduate, graduate and doctorate degree options through FSC’s education department, so Rakes does have a “lot of students” to supervise, but she says it speaks volumes as to how strong the program is.
“Listening is very important, seeing what’s working well and keeping that moving in the right direction,” Rakes said. “The state of Florida is very unique in the way they approach education and we must keep up with that. So, we’re constantly improving our courses and our clinical experiences for our students and I’ll be leading that charge.”
One of Rakes’ priorities is continuing and further improving programs within the department that develop students skills in real life. The lab school on campus, Roberts Academy, is a school specifically for children with reading difficulties.
Many of the children enrolled have dyslexia, according to Rakes, and this allows pre-service teachers (education students) to learn from experts how to teach children with reading difficulties – something many first-year teachers struggle with.
Another program is the Early Childhood Learning Lab, which began in 2020 in the Carol Jenkins Barnett Center for Early Childhood Learning and Health building. Its goal is to support children ages 3-5 in areas of cognitive, social, emotional, physical and linguistic development in the interactive classroom-labs, while students are developing their teaching skills at the same time.
“We always are in the midst of some type of program improvement,” Rakes said. “I do feel like I have a unique perspective because I was a faculty member for so long and I’ve had close connections with students for a long time. I think that will be beneficial to me in this position as I strive to keep those strong relationships with the students and continue to get their input so that we can excel and continue to excel in our program.”