The University announced earlier this month that Bob Pianta will step down from his role as dean of the School of Education at the end of the 2021-22 academic year. Pianta plans to take a sabbatical after, taking time to travel in Europe with his wife and colleagues across the globe. In addition, he has plans to write a book to inform both practicing educators and scholars about the intersection of education and human development.
Pianta’s involvement at the University precedes his employment as a dean — he began in 1986 as a professor teaching courses in education and psychology. During his time as a faculty member, Pianta also became the founding director of the Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning at the University of Virginia, an interdisciplinary research center that aims to advance the quality of teaching and learning by promoting meaningful changes in education from infancy to higher education.
According to UVAToday, Pianta’s research and teachings have earned him an international reputation for expertise in early childhood education and K-12 teaching and learning. Through his work at the University, Pianta contributed to an increased understanding and improvement of student-teacher interactions and relationships across academic disciplines, and his research has improved the tools and strategies used to connect teachers and students, leading to institutional changes around the world.
“Bob has been an exceptional dean — he and the faculty and staff have nurtured collaborations, expanded access and deepened excellence,” Provost Liz Magill said to UVAToday. “National recognition is just one measure of the impact of these efforts. An even more important measure is real progress on difficult problems facing educators today, and under Bob’s leadership, the School of Education and Human Development has made significant inroads on these pressing issues.”
When Pianta began as dean in 2007, the school was largely focused on graduate education and doctoral programs — with Pianta’s help, the school has expanded its academic programs to include doctoral programs as well as six undergraduate majors and two minors. Since 2016, the school has developed a strong online portfolio of offerings, including eight online degrees as well as certificate programs and other professional development opportunities.
Outside of his work at the University, Pianta has served as the editor of the Journal of School Psychology and associate editor for AERA Open. He was named a Fellow of the American Education Research Association and received a distinguished alumni award from the University of Minnesota in 2016.
Thanks to Pianta’s efforts, the School of Education improved its ranking in U.S. News and World Report from no. 35 to no. 15, with its online portfolio ranked no. 10. Moreover, the faculty is routinely perceived as some of the country’s best, according to Education Week.
“Over the past 15 years, Bob Pianta has transformed the School of Education and Human Development through his innovative leadership, and I’ve been grateful to have him as a friend, colleague and fellow student of education,” University President Jim Ryan said to UVAToday. “While we will miss having him as part of the University’s leadership team, he leaves the school poised for a bright future, for which I am incredibly grateful.”