Jill Hummels
Office of the Provost

New Foundation Professor among world's top influencers in education fields

Fri, 01/22/2016

LAWRENCE — A recognized authority in several areas of education will soon bring his expertise to the University of Kansas as its newest Foundation Distinguished Professor.

Yong Zhao, the presidential chair and professor in the Department of Educational Measurement, Policy, and Leadership at the University of Oregon, will join KU as the 11th Foundation Professor named to date. KU’s Foundation Distinguished Professor initiative is a unique partnership between the university and the state of Kansas to attract 12 eminent scholars to support one or more of the university’s four strategic initiative themes. 

Zhao is known for his research and publications on a number of topics, but especially for his work in five key areas:

  • Creativity and entrepreneurship education
  • Globalization and education
  • China and Chinese-language learning
  • Technology in education and schooling
  • Education reforms around the world.

He will join KU’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies in the School of Education in August and will also hold a courtesy appointment in the School of Business.

“It’s very exciting to bring one of today’s most influential voices in education to KU,” said Sara Rosen, interim provost and executive vice chancellor. “Zhao’s background and scholarly endeavors add to the depth of KU’s highly regarded educational leadership faculty and will directly contribute to two of KU’s strategic initiative themes: building communities, expanding opportunities; and harnessing information, multiplying knowledge.”

Zhao is expected to expand his research in creativity and entrepreneurship education and collaborate extensively with faculty in the School of Business’ Center for Entrepreneurship.

“Zhao was recently ranked among the most impactful education scholars in the United States in a ranking distributed by the American Enterprise Institute,” said Rick Ginsberg, dean of the School of Education. “Attracting him to KU will bolster our profile and contributions to growing fields such as entrepreneurship education.”

Enthusiasm for Zhao’s decision to join KU is shared across the university.

“Zhao’s arrival on campus will set the stage for extraordinary opportunities at KU,” said Susan Twombly, professor and chair of the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. “He has his finger on the pulse of a number of topics that are driving concepts in education today and for the foreseeable future. He’s a perfect complement to many of our strengths and will be able to develop crucial partnerships not only on campus, but around the globe.”

He joined the University of Oregon’s College of Education in 2010 and served as its associate dean from 2010 to 2013. He is director of the Institute for Online Education in the UO College of Education. Zhao was at Michigan State University from 1996 to 2010, earning the rank of University Distinguished Professor in 2005. He was executive director of the Confucius Institute there. During his time at Michigan State, he founded the Center of Teaching and Technology and the U.S.-China Center for Research on Educational Excellence. Prior to joining Michigan State, Zhao worked at the Language Learning Center of Willamette University and the Mellon Language Technology Consortium of Colgate University and Hamilton College. He currently is also a professorial fellow at the Mitchell Institute for Health and Education Policy of Victoria University in Australia.

Zhao is a prolific and widely published scholar. He has published more than 100 articles and 20 books, including “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon: Why China has the Best (and Worst) Education System in the World,” “Catching Up or Leading the Way: American Education in the Age of Globalization” and “World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students.” His research has appeared in numerous refereed journals, including Computers and Human Behavior, AASA Journal of Scholarship and Practice, Asia Pacific Journal of Education, American Educational Research Journal, Language Learning and Technology, Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, and more. He has written or co-written dozens of book chapters, technical reports and commissioned papers. His work also has appeared in education magazines and newspapers such as Education Week, Educational Leadership and Chronicle of Higher Education. He has served on the editorial boards of five different publications.

Zhao has received numerous honors and awards, including the National Leadership Award from the Institute for Educational Leadership in 2010. He has consistently been named among the top 10 most influential education scholars by the RHSU blog on Education Week. He was elected fellow to the International Academy for Education and was Mangold Trust Fellow with the Asia Education Foundation and University of Melbourne. His 2013 book, “World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students,” received the Education Book Award from the Society of Professors of Education as well as the Association of Education Publishers’ Judges’ Award and Distinguished Achievement Award in Education Leadership. His most recent book, “Who’s Afraid of the Big Dragon,” has been reviewed by major news organizations, including The New York Times and the Washington Post. He has been a keynote and invited speaker at numerous education conferences across the United States and around the world.

He serves on boards for High Tech High Graduate School of Education and the Center for Applied Linguistics and the education advisory boards for the Lemelson Foundation, Disney Junior and the Center for Childhood Creativity.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in English language education from Sichuan International Studies University and a master’s in education and a doctorate in educational psychology both from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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