Dr. Ali Carr-Chellman: Author & Dean of the College of Education, Health & Human Sciences, University of Idaho

My NativeAdVantage:


Dr. Ali Carr-Chellman is currently serving as the Dean of the College of Education, Health & Human Development at the University of Idaho in Moscow Idaho. Her research focuses on systemic change in schools, e-learning, gender and gaming. She teaches courses on instructional design, diffusion of innovations, systems theory and re-engaging disengaged learners. She is author of more than 200 publications including 6 books, many book chapters, articles, proceedings, and monographs.  She leads more than 170 faculty and staff in the college across three locations (Boise, Coeur d’Alene, and Moscow) with a diverse set of concerns from teacher and administrator preparation to dance, leisure studies, adult learning, rehab counseling, recreation, athletic training and movement studies. She lives with her three children and husband in Moscow, Idaho.

What do I do best?

I get things done.  I remember when my kids were little and there was this show, Fraggle Rock, there were little creatures there that kept building things out of potato dust, called doozers. In myself I recognize that I get hold of an idea and immediately see how things could be improved, how a new project could come to life, how obstacles can be overcome.  With enthusiasm, I put plans into action and this creates positive change in the world.

What makes me the best version of myself?

May sound trite, but there’s no question in my mind that it’s the people around me.  Primarily, my husband, Davin, who is also an academic.  He continuously asks me the right questions and helps me to see ways that I can be a better leader, a better scholar, a better mother, a better community member.  Beyond Davin, there are a whole host of amazing people that surround and support me in my work.  I always seek out people who are fantastic at what they do, who are enthusiastic and positive about life, and they help me to do the best work I can. I’ve been blessed at University of Idaho with amazing staff, specialists, faculty, and colleague administrators.

When working on the Boys and Games projects, my children have helped to make me the most authentic and motivated version of myself.  It was through their experiences in schools that I realized there was a great disservice being done to boys in elementary classrooms.  It was through playing games with them that I learned to better understand their world, and realize how much they were learning from those same games. All of this led me to refine the work on boys and games as mapped onto core curriculum expectations from schools.  I’m very proud of this work and believe it has the potential to change daily practice in classrooms everywhere.

What are my aspirations?

Aspirations, ambitions and desires feel fleeting at times, just when I think I’m clear on them, they shift.  I want to see the University of Idaho’s College of Education, Health & Human Sciences become the most innovative and nationally recognized College for scholarship, teaching, and service. That seems pretty natural, I want my current work place to distinguish itself on the national stage. Probably as a leader this is a typical hope.   But an important part of this is about changing children’s lives.  The teachers we send out into Idaho and across the nation must be taught to think differently about what it means to teach and learn.  It is essential that they approach their students with true engagement in their mind and heart.  If they do, we’ll see dramatic shifts in the way education happens.  This can lead to integrating gaming, or movement, or comic books, or popular press, or TV, or current culture into the classroom.  It moves us to a place of respecting the culture of our learners, and away from a place of coercive learning.  When we respect a learner’s desires, they are far more likely to engage in their learning.  In fact, I would argue that without that basic respect, it’s unlikely that kids will ever learn in the traditional coercive model. Rather, they will resist and eventually they will learn the rules and “do school” a kind of giving up that is an enormous waste of human potential.

I aspire, perhaps more than anything, to dramatically change schools.  I do NOT have an answer.  I do not believe there is AN answer.  Indeed, I believe all answers must come from the stakeholders in the individual schools…all solutions are local.  But I think founding them on this principle of trusting learners and respecting their cultures is a cornerstone to building a true learning culture.  

Personally, I aspire to live a long life full of all the joys of family and the simplicity of knowing who I am and truly liking that.

I would also really like to write a few books for popular presses.  I have had several ideas from a book on how to raise boys today, to successful leadership for innovation, to fiction.  

My Biggest Success?

It’s hard to point to the “biggest” success and it depends on which context we’re looking at.  Likely the TED talk on boys and gaming: https://www.ted.com/talks/ali_carr_chellman_gaming_to_re_engage_boys_in_learning will reach more people than any article or book I’ve written.  I also did a TED talk that focused on the importance of public education for public good and takes on the cybercharter movement directly:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4L_wfX3MzRE which reached far fewer people, but was substantively critical to my work in cybercharter schooling. 

Among my books, I think I’m most proud of my book on user design which is among the more radical things I’ve written: https://www.amazon.com/User-Design-Alison-Carr-Chellman-ebook/dp/B00979Y7SG/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1516217016&sr=8-6&keywords=carr-chellman  However, my most recent book probably will be a bigger success than the others given it’s topic and the short pieces in it:  https://www.amazon.com/Issues-Technology-Learning-Instructional-Design-ebook/dp/B01N6CBAHA/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1516217016&sr=8-5&keywords=carr-chellman  The format for that book and the topics taken up are really fun, so it’s getting great reviews and recently won an award.  In terms of my career, I really hope that my biggest successes are yet to come.

In other areas of my life, for sure my kids are a huge success.  They are all teens now, and doing well.  A point of pride though we admittedly haven’t gotten them all the way through their growing up years, but I’m impressed by each of them and am proud of what they are doing in the world, service, volunteering, caring for others.  But I think my biggest success in my life is my happy healthy marriage.  As anyone knows it takes work, but my husband makes it a joy on a daily basis to be married to him. Prioritizing our marriage from the start has made me so happy and has helped us to have a faith-filled marriage that works.

My Most Challenging Moment?

There are plenty of these too.  Several years ago I was diagnosed with a serious health issue that is chronic and is currently in remission.  Getting through that difficult time with my family was very challenging. Everyone supported me amazingly, and in the end I felt much stronger than I did before I struggled with this.  

My parents moved in with my family about 3 years before their deaths. And it was an amazing as well as highly challenging experience for me.  I saw them through to their last breaths and I’m proud of that, but it was an exhausting and relentless experience. I have deep respect for anyone serving as a caregiver, and would encourage anyone reading to take on that task for their families/parents.  I honestly feel it is the right thing to do and was an amazing gift to me to experience my parents in this way.

Career-wise, shortly after my father passed, I decided to go “on the market.” I believed that we had an opportunity for an adventure and so I applied to several dean jobs and had several interviews.  The decision to leave Penn State after 23 years, to uproot my teenage children and to move to The University of Idaho was a very challenging moment.  My family was all supportive, particularly my husband.  We have been so happy that we made this mid-career change.  It wasn’t easy, there were constant trials throughout the process, but in the end, it’s clear that we are where we belong.  The University of Idaho is an amazing “hidden gem.”  This place offers me an opportunity to have an impact at a state level on the educational system, teacher training, leadership and so forth.  I have phenomenal colleagues to write with and to work with as I lead the College of Education, Health & Human Sciences.  The transition has been easy and the beauty of Idaho is not lost on me or my family. We feel blessed to have come out the other side of this career challenge with such a great result.


My Motto?

My family sends one another off to work and school with the following mottos:

Attitude is everything

Bloom where you are plant

You are what you repeatedly do

Treat other people the way you want to be treated

Thank you God for the gift of Life

Always go to the funeral

As we start our day and we’re ready to walk out the door to face the world, we repeat these to each other, in a round robin, we each call out one that we remember.  It’s a great inspirational way to start our days.  I believe in all of these mottos and they inspire me to be the best me I can be.

My Favorite People/Role Models?

Personally, my role models have always been my parents who were amazing people.  They had great life/work balance, loved what they did and were happy to get up every morning and go to work that they enjoyed.  They had a wonderful marriage and were wonderful parents. They raised my three siblings and I to be caring and strong people. I also have to go back to my husband here because as a role model, he’s amazing.  He has excellent work/life balance, works on really important scholarship, and is a model of excellence in his writing. I believe he’s the smartest person I know.

Professionally, my mentor, Dr. Charlie Reigeluth who was my dissertation advisor from Indiana University and who is now an emeritus faculty there has always inspired me to do the right thing and to do it right.  He is a prolific author and I’ve had great joy in working with him through the years on various projects including our “Green Book III” : https://www.amazon.com/Instructional-Design-Theories-Models-III-Knowledge-ebook/dp/B00164X31M/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1516217016&sr=8-2&keywords=carr-chellman  Dick Howell has served as a fantastic mentor in my leadership transition into deanship as has Marcy Driscoll.

I also have been inspired by Kyle Peck & Mark Toci who founded the Centre Learning Community, an absolutely amazing project-based middle level school that has changed so many kids’ lives and is always doing fantastic work.  

My Favorite Places/Destinations?

Home is almost always a favorite place for me. I’m sort of a home-body as they say.  The great news is that I’ve had the privilege to live in gorgeous places from State College, Pennsylvania, to Moscow, Idaho I’m lucky to have lived in places of gorgeous beauty and natural wonder.

I grew up visiting the Grand Tetons in Jackson, Wyoming.  My family walked the bridge so many years at String Lake.  I love that place, and I had the exciting opportunity to share that place, Jenny Lake Lodge with my own family a few years ago.

I also adore the Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. It’s among the most wonderful places so rich in history and grace.  My family has gone there for generations and I just love the elegance and quiet relaxation that is embodied at the Greenbrier.

Just up the road, I have also enjoyed Snowshoe, West Virginia for years.  It’s a lovely place, one of the most gorgeous natural views I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy.  The skiing is wonderful, the place is unassuming and relaxed.  I know there are many exciting and beautiful places that I’ll get to explore now that we’re living in the Inland Northwest.  I look forward to seeing the Oregon Coast and parts of Washington State and Canada that are now near my new home in the panhandle of Idaho.

My Favorite Products/Objects?

I still have my mother’s old Gilhoolie, which is a cool little tool for opening jars that so elegantly illustrates the function of leverage.  I’m a mac person, so I have iphone and macbooks, but I rarely have the most recent versions and I’m always happy to look at refurbished technologies.  Living in Idaho, I’m not all that focused on consumerism, but I do love that we have so much available to us online.  Without online shopping tools, it would be tough to live in a remote place anywhere in the US.  But country living has gotten so much better now that we can get pretty much anything we want or need online.

My Current Passions?

I’m excited about the One Stone model of high school project-based learning and am learning so much about that innovation (onestone.org) . I really hope I’m able to do some collaborative research and projects with One Stone.  Their underlying attitudes of trusting kids and allowing child-centered curriculum development is most impressive. I am hoping that there will be great opportunities in the future because their work is impacting so many kids’ lives and showing us all the way to re-engage disengaged learners in their own education.

I’m also very excited about my kids’ musical lives.  When we moved from Pennsylvania in 2016, we were all disappointed to find that the area didn’t have a well-articulated rock band program (something we were thoroughly enjoying in PA).  None of the kids wanted to or were willing to commit to scholastic music programs (choir, band, orchestra) and music isn’t optional in our family, it does too many amazing things for kids’ learning brains.  So the kids created their own band!  The Free Range Children  (https://www.facebook.com/thefreerangechildren/) play all over Moscow and cover various genres from rock to jazz.  They are a super fun group and I love working with them.  Two of my three also wanted to work on an a capella group with some of their friends this year, and I’ve loved working with them too.

They are planning to sing very challenging songs this spring at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival here at UI as well as their high school Arts Festival.