Seybert eager to lead College of Education

Jennifer Seybert, recently named dean of the College of Education at UTPB, talks about her career and future plans for the department at the library on campus. She officially starts July 1. (Photo by Abraham Franco)

Having just wrapped up her 26th year in education, Jennifer Seybert had run through the range of jobs from elementary through high school to teacher, coach, principal and opening new campuses.

Starting officially on July 1, she’ll be putting her considerable experience in Odessa and Midland to work as dean of the College of Education at University of Texas Permian Basin.

A native of West Odessa and graduate of Odessa High School, Seybert was most recently principal of Midland High School and has headed the Young Women’s Leadership Academy, STEM Academy and Booker T. Washington. She is also an adjunct professor in the College of Education at UTPB.

When she finished her doctorate in 2014, Seybert said she didn’t see herself in higher education yet. The dean’s position was open five or six years ago, but she didn’t think she was ready yet.

But now with the shortage of teachers, principals, special education teachers, bilingual ESL teachers and diagnosticians to name a few, the native West Texan said she felt she could help make an impact.

“One of the things that I think I’m best at is building relationships with people; convincing people in our area that if you want to be a teacher, or counselor, or principal, UT Permian Basin should be your first choice. By increasing enrollment and getting more students into the program, that has a bigger impact on our community as a whole, so we won’t be short-staffed at our schools,” Seybert said. “So really nothing more than I think my impact or my reach could have been bigger. And so that’s why I decided to go ahead and apply for this position now that it was open this time,” Seybert said.

All the high schools in the area offer a pathway for teacher education, so she wants to make sure they are strategically hitting the high schools and drawing in students interested in teaching so they can be moved on to UTPB.

Jennifer Seybert, recently named new dean of the College of Education at UTPB, poses for a photo outside the library on campus. She officially starts July 1 and has had a varied career in education. (Photo by Abraham Franco)

A mother of two, Seybert has a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and a minor in math from UTPB, a master’s in athletic administration and a principal certification from UTPB and a superintendent certification through Region 18 Education Service Center.

She was part of a cohort of 12 UTPB students who got their doctorates through a partnership with UT San Antonio.

She wants to let prospective students know that if they want to be a teacher, there’s no reason to leave West Texas.

“We want to be the best program for our students here and be the No. 1 choice for students in West Texas getting” their teacher certification, Seybert said.

She added that there is a lot of scholarship money for students so they can graduate debt free. There are also residencies and other programs that can give new teachers experience right away.

Students can also practice their craft virtually before they go into an actual classroom.

“Getting our teachers real-world teaching experiences as quickly as possible is what I think will help inspire (them). Learning how to teach from a book is way less effective than learning how to teach in front of actual students,” Seybert said.

She added that people who enter any kind of service industry want to motivate others.

“Giving them the opportunity to inspire people and get them excited about their future is really what I want to jumpstart,” she said.

Increasing the visibility of UTPB as an option goes with the objective of increasing enrollment.

“But also making sure the program in the College of Ed are quality and top-notch and (that) we’re competitive with other universities so that when students decide they want to be a teacher, or a counselor or a diagnostician or administrator, they know that step programs at UT Permian Basin are quality,” Seybert said.

Although she’s stepping into administration, she doesn’t want to leave the teaching side.

“There’s nothing more exciting. I teach future campus leaders, future administrators, assistant principals, central office leadership. They’re excited about the future and so I never want to lose touch with that,” Seybert said.

She said they have to seek out the best teachers in the schools because they’re the ones that are inspiring others and making a difference every day.

“Right now what’s really big in Midland ISD and Ector County ISD is the teacher incentive allotment, being able to make more money by staying in the classroom,” Seybert said.

“When I started my career, it was be a teacher and then move into an assistant principal role and just kind of move up. But it isn’t like that right now. We’re really trying to inspire teachers to stay in their classroom, doing what they really love to do but then also making sure that they’re compensated for it,” Seybert added.

Putting the best teachers in front of people will help attract people to the field.

“We have to be advocates for our profession. It’s so easy to get down on education. Things aren’t perfect and things aren’t going great. Kids are using AI and kids are lazy and all of those things, but they’re not always, so finding those great teachers and using those teachers to help build our programs I think could be key,” she added.

Top officials at UTPB like Raj Dakshinamurthy, UTPB’s Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs, are thrilled to have Seybert on board. She replaces Larry Daniel, the previous dean of the College of Education.

“Dr. Seybert’s appointment to Dean of the College of Education is particularly significant given her strong ties to our region and her decades of classroom and educational leadership experience, which began right here at UTPB as an undergraduate and graduate student,” Dakshinamurthy said in a news release. “Dr. Seybert embodies the excellence and dedication we aim to inspire in our students. We are confident that Dr. Seybert will bring innovative ideas and strategic initiatives to our College of Education.”