Under the leadership of President Amy C. Novak, Ed.D., St. Ambrose University recognized that education had changed post-pandemic. That’s why the university is laying the groundwork for the Higgins Center of Innovation and Human Centered Design, as well as leading discussions aimed at developing customized approaches to future teaching practices to help prepare St. Ambrose students for the workforce of the future.

It was vital to create a new Dean of Innovation, Adult and Graduate Studies role, and Katherine J Van Blair, Ph.D., Director and Professor for the St. Ambrose School of Social Work and Master of Social Work program, was declared a natural fit for the position.

Dr. Katherine J. Van Blair, Dean of Innovation, Adult and Graduate Studies, St. Ambrose University (photo: St. Ambrose University)

“Katie Van Blair’s insights into the changing nature of higher education will suit her well as she steps into the role of Dean of Innovation, Adult and Professional Studies,” said Novak. “Her experience with adult learners and her willingness to build community relationships will enable St. Ambrose to be more agile and nimble as it responds to the complexities of today’s knowledge economy.”

Van Blair’s time at St. Ambrose goes back to her undergraduate days when she was double majoring in Psychology and Sociology. She went on to earn a Master of Science in Human Development and Family Studies from Iowa State University in Ames, a Master of Social Work from St. Ambrose University, and a Ph.D. in Child Development and Family Studies with a specialization in Marriage and Family Therapy from Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN.

Van Blair joined the faculty at St. Ambrose in 2001 and has held faculty member and Director positions for the St. Ambrose School of Social Work and Master of Social Work program.

“Dr. Katie Van Blair has a long history with St. Ambrose. She has been a needed, consistent and strong advocate for graduate students and programs based on her evident and empowering leadership skills. I am looking forward to her bringing these skills to bear as the Dean of Innovation, Adult and Graduate Studies,” said Paul C. Koch, Ph.D., Provost & Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs.

When asked about her vision and definition of innovation at St. Ambrose, Van Blair said, “My education in social work leads me to see innovation as both a process and a product. The process creates an environment and a culture where people feel comfortable taking risks to try something new and getting people excited about the idea of pushing themselves.

“Over time, those processes will build a product that serves our students and community. It may be a process that supports staff in increasing continuing education opportunities, a new program that adults in the community can access to further their career or a joint faculty/student initiative on a cutting-edge topic in their discipline.”

Van Blair visualizes this new department to be the one that says, “Cool idea! Let’s figure out how we can make that happen together!”