Heather Vezner, a lifelong teacher and leader in education, is the newly- appointed dean of CUI’s School of Education (SOE). She succeeds Kent Schlichtemeier, who is now the director of the new Servant Leadership Institute, which works in close partnership with the SOE.
“Credit prayer and the Spirit’s guidance on choosing Heather. It was made evident to us that this was the way to go,” says Tim Schumacher, assistant professor of educational technology and chair of the search committee.
“We love her. Heather cares about people. She does it without simply being a yes-person and agreeing with everybody. She’ll step into conflict to sort things out, but she’s sound, has a really solid character, is a hard worker, crunches numbers and gets into the weeds of details.”
Vezner was a primary leader for several years in preparation for CUI’s site visit critical to the California Teacher Credential process.
Provost Scott Ashmon says he is “thrilled that Professor Heather Vezner accepted the call to be the Dean of the School of Education. God has abundantly blessed us. Professor Vezner brings great experience, knowledge, devotion, drive, and a love for education—public, private, and parochial—to this position.”
Vezner planned to be a teacher from a very young age, earning her degree in elementary education at CU Chicago and working in the college’s early childhood center and laboratory school. She met future husband Tony—who is now director of CUI’s theater program— there, and after some years pursuing their vocations in Illinois, the couple headed west to join the CUI community.
Around that time, Heather felt a shift from classroom to administrative leadership.
“I was personally at a crossroads,” she says. “I wanted to try something new in education.”
A series of administrative roles offered “new opportunities to try different things and see where God was leading me.” In that journey came the discovery that she enjoys administration.
“As much as I loved my years of teaching, I really enjoy the organization that’s needed in administration, the vision you have to develop, bringing people around that vision,” she says. “I love seeing people’s talents and skill sets, and thinking how we can use them to serve students.”
Servant-leadership is one focus of the School of Education. The Servant Leadership Institute is helping to develop a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership, while creating numerous programs, academies, and symposia at CUI to equip education leaders to be servant-leaders.
“I aspire to be a servant-leader, somebody who puts other people at the center of the work because I believe God has placed me in this role to coordinate the gifts and talents of other people,” says Vezner. “My gift has always been tapping into the strengths of the team so together we can maximize our capacity for serving students through our diverse and eclectic skill set.”
Her greatest daily preparation comes through prayer, she says.
“I am committed to start every day in prayer and committing the day to God, saying, ‘Lord, whatever you want to do through me today, I give it to you,’” she says. “It’s about staying connected with God, staying connected in prayer, and having a strong support system.”
From that foundation, “We can prepare highly qualified practitioners who go into their schools and communities and serve their students with excellence,” she says.