National University Taps Expert in Teacher Preparation to Lead College of Education

Dr. Robert Lee joins the Southern California nonprofit university, the largest provider of teaching credentials in California, as college of education dean

LA JOLLA, CALIF. (August 30, 2021) — National University, a nonprofit university with a 50-year history of serving working adult learners, educators, and Veterans, today announced the appointment of Dr. Robert Lee as dean of the Sanford College of Education, one of the largest colleges of education in the United States and the largest provider of teaching credentials in California. A nationally-recognized educator, leader, and expert in urban education, culturally-responsive teaching and teacher preparation, Dr. Lee will lead a team of more than 60 full-time faculty and 935 adjunct faculty, serving more than 11,000 active students.

“We are designing new models of teacher education that can adapt to the needs of today’s teaching profession—particularly in communities experiencing shortages of educator talent,” said National University Interim President Randy C. Frisch. “Dr. Lee brings immense respect and a passion for the values of equity, inclusion and teacher empowerment—reflected in his accomplishments as an educator, advocate, and leader. He will be a powerful advocate for a vibrant educator workforce.”

The appointment comes at a time when schools of education and teacher preparation programs across the country are working to address teacher shortages, exacerbated in many communities by the effects of the pandemic. Bringing decades of experience in higher education leadership and teacher preparation, Dr. Lee will take the helm of the Sanford College of Education, which offers more than 15 terminal degrees and certificates.

Dr. Lee joins National University from his most recent role as dean of the University of Central Missouri’s College of Education, where he focused on removing barriers to educators and working adults by creating new degree programs for paraprofessionals and military-connected families. There, he led a team that successfully designed and launched four new master’s degree options to address changing career and workforce demands in the region, including a new master’s in English language learning.

Earlier in his career, Dr. Lee was the founding executive director of the National Center for Urban Education at Illinois State University, the first nationally-based center with cross-institutional partnerships focused on finding solutions to systemic problems in urban education. In that role, he also created and directed the Chicago Teacher Education Pipeline, a unique partnership between Illinois State, Chicago Public Schools, and community-based organizations focused on developing a culturally-responsive model for urban teacher recruitment, preparation, and induction.

During his more than two decades in the field, he has secured more than $25 million in competitive grants and served as an advisor on teaching effectiveness and preparation to major school districts, community-based organizations, and state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Education.

“The past year has been a uniquely challenging time for educators across the country. They have had to adapt to new and unfamiliar technologies, navigate concerns about public health, and lead complex conversations around equity,” said Dr. Lee. “These unprecedented demands on educators have created a heightened sense of urgency to not only strengthen the fundamentals of our profession, but to also champion educator voices and perspectives, as we identify new ways to support their development—and professional success.”

The Sanford College of Education brings to bear a unique combination of faculty expertise, online instruction, school and district partnerships, research opportunities, and holistic student support to meet the diverse needs of the K-12 education workforce.

About National University

About National University: National University, a Veteran-founded nonprofit, has been dedicated to meeting the needs of hard-working adults by providing accessible, affordable, achievable higher education opportunities since 1971. As San Diego’s largest private nonprofit university, NU offers over 75 online and on-campus programs and flexible four-week courses designed to help students reach their goals while balancing busy lives. Since its founding, the NU community has grown to over 30,000 students and 185,000 alumni around the globe, many of whom serve in helping industries such as business, education, health care, cybersecurity, and law and criminal justice. Learn more at

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