A focus on people

Joan Hawthorne retires after 31 years on campus

Joan Hawthrone

Joan Hawthorne, a respected instructional leader on campus, recently retired after 31 years at UND. She’s considered a mentor by many, holding a variety of titles throughout her career including director of assessment and regional accreditation. Photo by Connor Murphy/UND Today.

It’s the people.

From helping students land competitive scholarships to teaching composition, from reaccreditation to assessment, Joan Hawthorne has always focused on people and working across campus.

She’s known for making a difference, often behind the scenes, and recently retired after 31 years of service.

“What I like about higher education is the opportunity to focus on student learning,” said Hawthorne, who served as director of assessment and regional accreditation. “Everything we’ve done here focuses on that.” She’s especially passionate about helping students obtain national competitive scholarships and awards.

Hawthorne has always been a generalist.

“That meant I could do a lot of interesting things,” she said. “I’ve always worked with people across campus, and I’m really interested in the whole notion of working across the University.”

A “go-to” person

Considered a mentor by many, Hawthorne has been tapped for a myriad of projects – and is known for her success at all of them.

“Joan is that colleague who regularly carries more than her share of the load while expressing appreciation and gratitude for everyone else’s contributions,” said Anne Kelsch, director of faculty and staff development at the Teaching Transformation & Development Academy. “She is always fair-minded and generous with her insights and expertise. She always puts students and their learning first.”

Hawthorne began her UND career in 1987 teaching composition, and was soon named assistant director of composition. She was then tapped to implement a University-wide writing program, Writing Across the Curriculum, and later became the coordinator of the program. After the death of Libby Rankin, she stepped in as acting director of the Office of Instructional Development.

In 2005 Hawthorne was named assistant provost for assessment and achievement, where she was in charge of assessing student learning and spearheaded assistance to students as they applied for national awards and scholarships. In 2010 she was named director of assessment and regional accreditation, where she steered UND through a successful three-year effort that led to reaccreditation of UND in 2013. And she’s kept an eye on assessment and focusing on student learning.

During the spring semester, she worked on Goal 1 of the One UND Strategic Plan: provide a strong liberal arts foundation.

“This was an opportunity to work on things that matter,” she said about the Strategic Plan.

Student focus

Throughout her career, Hawthorne has always taught and worked with students.

“I’ve really enjoyed the steady stream of talented students who apply for nationally competitive scholarships,” said Hawthorne. “They are fun students, and they are outstanding.” Under Hawthorne’s guidance, students have been named Truman, Goldwater and student Fulbright scholars.

For several years, Hawthorne taught an honors course to help students get on track to meet their goals, whether it was a national scholarship or medical school.

“I liked the opportunity to have frank conversations with students who were eager for advice,” she said. “I loved working with students and creating relationships. It was fun to work with them and help them make choices.”

“By guiding students toward success in national and international scholarships and fellowships, Joan has changed the lives of our students,” said Mark Jendrysik, professor of political science and public administration. “She provides a model for all those who worked with her and those who will follow her. I will miss her a lot.”

“UND has been incredibly fortunate in Joan’s leadership,” said Kelsch. “I think of institutional stewardship – fostering a culture that supports the best values of higher education through qualities such as listening, humility, respect and trust – when I think of Joan.”

“I consider Joan one of my most influential mentors at UND, and admire her greatly,” said Ryan Zerr, professor of mathematics. “She is hard working, incredibly smart and thoughtful, and has students and their learning at the forefront of all that she has done.  I’ll miss her, and know that UND won’t be the same without the benefit of her wisdom and good judgment.”

Hawthorne said she’s looking forward to having more time to travel to visit family, garden and cook during retirement.

“I will always remember the great people I’ve worked with and the things people have done because I asked them to,” said Hawthorne. “They’ve come through to support any project – there are always really good people willing to take part. It’s been great.”

Looking forward

“Joan is irreplaceable” said Senior Vice Provost Debbie Storrs. “However, the scope of her work is central to UND. Short- and long-term plans are in place to assess student learning and support students’ pursuit of competitive scholarships.”

Hawthorne’s work on scholarships and fellowships will be taken over by Yee Han Chu, who holds degrees in genetics and psychology from the University of California at Davis, a master’s in clinical social work from Columbia University, and a Ph.D. in teaching and learning from UND. Her advocacy for gifted students has taken her across the world.

Donna K. Pearson has been assisting with assessment and accreditation efforts since Hawthorne’s retirement. As UND’s Higher Learning Commission co-chair, Pearson has served in assessment roles for the College of Education & Human Development and has experience as a program reviewer at the state and national level.

Storrs will chair a search committee composed of Marcellin Zahui, Jeffrey Holm, Karyn Plumm, and Donna Pearson. The goal is to have a new director in place in January.