Ellen Storey Vasu will retire from the NC State College of Education July 1 after 34 years with the college. During that time, she has held leadership positions at nearly every level, including serving her last three years as the associate dean for academic affairs.
Before joining the College of Education in 1983, Vasu worked at UNC-Chapel Hill, bringing her total years of service with the UNC System 43 years.
She spoke with ced.ncsu.edu about her career. The following Q&A is edited and condensed.
Why did you come to the College of Education, and why did you stay for 34 years?
I came here because I wanted a tenure track faculty position, and I wanted to work with teachers and technology. I stayed because the college was constantly changing, and I’ve been able to grow professionally. I’ve worked with so many talented students and faculty who helped me to grow in ways that I didn’t think I could do.
Ellen Storey Vasu
Notable: Will retire July 1 from the College of Education as the associate dean for academic affairs after 34 years with the college.
Education: Ph.D. in Educational Psychology-Statistics and Measurement, Southern Illinois University; Master of Arts in Mathematics, California State University; and Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics, San Diego State University.
Favorite campus spot: Hunt Library
Where I’ve spent most of my time on campus: 4th, 6th, and 2nd floor of Poe Hall
Favorite food joint: Irregardless Cafe
Favorite class to teach: Statistics or research methods
How have you grown?
I have become much more outgoing.
You’re known for your interest in technology. How did you get interested in that?
When I was at Chapel Hill, I was in charge of SAS/SPSS research at the Institute for Research in Social Science (Odum Institute). I led workshops for faculty and students learning statistics and analyses, but I also met some teachers who wanted to learn how to use technology in the classroom. I got hooked. I gave the faculty the first workshop on the use of Apple IIe. That was a long time ago.
What has kept you interested in digital technology?
Our children are using it and even small children are learning how to use it in innovative and creative ways. It’s important in business and in your professional life. We need to make sure all children get the chance to know how to use it for creative and productive purposes.
What has been your proudest moment in your career?
I am most proud of the work I have been able to do to support faculty, students and the dean’s office. I’ve liked my role of being behind-the-scenes and keeping things moving and on track.
I can also say that I’m proud of the work I’ve done at Chapel Hill and here, and I’m appreciative of all the friendships I’ve developed.
What have been the biggest changes you’ve noticed with the College of Education?
We’re so much more effective. We’re ranked higher. We’re larger. We’re more research-based. There’s far more energy with the faculty, and the students are stronger academically. The Friday Institute was added. We have just improved in every way.
Also, both the university and college has grown in terms of digital learning and instructional technology. That’s an interest of mine, and that interest has aligned very nicely with the places the university and college has gone technologically. We’re very technologically rich.
What do you hope students and other faculty members learned from you?
I would hope they would have learned to listen, to have empathy for people, to be patient, and to try to just put a little more effort in negotiating solutions to problems. Listening is really important. You also need to care and be flexible.
What have you hoped you achieved during your career?
I hope that I’ve made some faculty and student lives easier, and I hoped I’ve helped them achieve the goals they’ve wanted to achieve.
What will you miss about the College of Education?
The people. I’ll miss my spreadsheets, too!
What won’t you miss?
The meetings. So many meetings.
What’s next for you?
I will be getting back into my painting, drawing, reconnecting with nature and art, reading, and spending time with my family.
What They’re Saying About Ellen Storey Vasu
“Thanks for making a difference in many ways”
Once upon a time, a young academic arrived on fourth floor Poe Hall telling me that she was interested in a position in the Curriculum & Instruction Department. Ellen Vasu’s family was moving closer to NC State where her husband was a member of the political science department. As she had skills in technology and statistics, and an interesting experience at UNC-Chapel Hill, we immediately welcomed her and gave her the assignment of developing the technology education program. Thanks, Ellen, for making a difference in many ways in the College of Education. — Barbara M. Parramore, Professor Emerita and first head of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction
“I so appreciate Ellen’s positive outlook”
I so appreciate Ellen’s positive outlook on issues that come up and ability to talk through whatever is going on! — Kerri Brown Parker, METRC Director
She’s a “brilliant thinker” and a “second mother to many”
Dr. Vasu or Dr. Ellen, as I call her, is a brilliant thinker. She is kind and has a great sense of humor. She works very hard and can be fearless when assisting her loved ones. She is a second mother to many. — Dr. Monica Price
“You taught me the true meaning of a student-centered professor”
Thank you for your unconditional 20 years of mentoring. In 1997, I met with you as my program coordinator. Little did I know that was a lifelong relationship. You have been alongside my professional growth for 20 years. You taught me the true meaning of a student-centered professor. Your legacy will live through my work. Enjoy your well-deserved retirement. — Prince Hycy Bull, Professor
“She is a true genuine person”
“I will always remember her sweet and kindness. It’s so nice of her inviting me to her house to paint with her and her family. We had a wonderful time. She is a true genuine person. Love her.” — Meimei Davis, IT Support Specialist
“She used her wisdom and experience to help me be successful”
Ellen was my second department head. I am grateful that she listened, supported and valued my professional goals rather than trying to force me into more typical or traditional models. She used her wisdom and experience to help me be successful, while remaining true to myself. — Marc A. Grimmett, Associate Professor
“We all love and trust her”
Ellen as a person, professor and leader consistently is genuine, warm, caring, calm and so intelligent. She has always been like this. That is why we all love and trust her. She also can see the big picture with a great sense of humor. Thank you Ellen! We will miss you and have learned so much from you! — Helen Lupton-Smith, Teaching Assistant Professor and Clinical Coordinator, NC State College of Education
“Ellen has always fostered a growth mindset”
Ellen has always fostered a growth mindset in her students. I try to live by her example as I work with future teachers. Thanks for always believing in us! — Doris Tyler
“I especially appreciate her kindness, support and understanding”
Ellen was always a good listener and strong advocate for the department and faculty. I especially appreciate her kindness, support and understanding during the difficult times my family experienced when my mother and mother-in-law died within the same academic year. Ellen, thank you for all you’ve done for me during my time at NC State and for your dedicated service overall. Best wishes for the future! — Carl Young, Associate Professor of English Education
“A friend of my friend is a friend”
When I first met Ellen during my interview for the dean position, I knew I knew her from my past time in the 1980s as a computer science educator. We tried to figure out when or how we might have met. The computer science education network in the 1980s was pretty small so we were sure we had to have gone to the same meetings. Finally, we decided we knew each other because we both knew Sheila Cory. Because my life as a dean was very different from my previous life in North Carolina as a graduate student and teacher, I have always felt a sense of continuity with Ellen because of this shared past relationship. — Jayne Fleener, Former Dean, NC State College of Education
“Ellen deserves a few mornings of going back to sleep after habitually waking up”
It was my great pleasure and privilege to have Ellen as a colleague and to be on the faculty roster of her department, although all the courses I taught were in Higher Education. I hope most of her memories are fond ones of our efforts to improve teacher education and graduate education. After 30+ years of service at NC State, Ellen deserves a few mornings of going back to sleep after habitually waking up. — Gerald Ponder, Former Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, NC State College of Education
“Dr. Vasu’s actions always felt above and beyond what she had to do”
While a Ph.D. student in the College of Education, I ran across the occasional personal crisis that I wasn’t quite sure how to handle. As my advisor, Dr. Vasu was always positive yet straightforward with me when I encountered such situations or obstacles that could negatively affect my student status. She never discouraged me, but always offered multiple solutions, allowing me to weigh my options. She would take the time to send personal notes letting me know that someone had complimented my work as a TA in the department, which meant a lot. Dr. Vasu’s actions always felt above and beyond what she had to do, especially as a busy department chair. I am thankful for her compassion and guidance, but most of all her thoughtfulness for me as an individual in the program. — Preference Evans, Ph.D. student, NC State College of Education
“She has always been, and continues to be, supportive”
Ellen always had an open door policy and was extremely supportive each and every time I had a question or simply wanted to check-in. She has always been, and continues to be, supportive of me, my role, and our new program. I do believe she should receive an honorary counseling degree for the way she engages, connects and cares for all she meets and interacts with personally and professionally. She is also a strong advocate. — Angie Smith, Teaching Assistant Professor, NC State College of Education
“I’m impressed with Ellen’s constant cheerfulness and spontaneous laughter”
I have only been with the College of Education for two months, but I’m impressed with Ellen’s constant cheerfulness and spontaneous laughter, her helpfulness and obvious desire for improvement and growth, and her deep care for the college and her colleagues. I know I am missing special opportunity not to be able to work with her. — Ann Horner, Executive Director of Development, NC State College of Education
She “always has a smile on her face”
I love the way Dr. Ellen Vasu always has a smile on her face! She always has been approachable and friendly. Thank you! — Lesley Wirt, Associate Director of Northeast Leadership Academy
“I will miss her diligence, dedication and persistence”
Every time I had a question, Ellen was always knew the answer or was willing to find the answer. I will miss her diligence, dedication and persistence. Most of all, I will miss her guidance as a leader and comfort as a friend. — Jessica DeCuir-Gunby, Associate Professor of Educational Psychology
“The best teacher I ever had”
Dr. Vasu will be missed tremendously as she retires from her long successful career in academia and from NC State. Dr. Vasu is a distinguished scholar, dedicated educator and the best teacher whom I have ever had. From the early 1990s till the early 2000s, when the field of Instructional Technology was still in its early stages, Dr. Vasu was the leader in this cutting-edge field. Her contribution to literature, teaching and application in this field is outstanding and invaluable.
Dr. Vasu’s contribution has been demonstrated in pioneer block-building over her career, just to name a few: Building the instructional technology and programs at NC State University, and building relationships. Dr. Vasu has more than 34 years of teaching and learning experiences with students. In addition to collaborations with colleagues in numerous research projects, Dr. Vasu has built long-term relationship with professionals outside the university in both research and applied fields nationally and internationally.
Dr. Vasu’s teaching is innovative and inspirational and successfully crosses various discipline barriers. From my personal experience when I was a Ph.D. student at NC State, not only did the courses provide me with theoretical background to understand the linkages between teaching, learning and technology, but they have also helped me apply the theory in various applications in the classroom settings, particularly in technology integration in planning and improvements in education.
I consider myself a very fortunate NC State alumna having Dr. Vasu as my advisor, mentor, and friend. Best wishes to Dr. Vasu. — Michelle Hsiang