Better Together by Design: Cary Roseth named department chair

August 7, 2018

Distinguished scholar and Michigan State University Professor Cary Roseth was named chairperson of the Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology and Special Education (CEPSE) on May 16, 2018. Roseth assumed the leadership role from Professor Emeritus Richard Prawat, who retired from the position after an incredible 27 years as chair.

Roseth has been part of the Educational Psychology and Educational Technology (EPET) faculty since 2007. He came from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities where he earned his master’s and Ph.D. in Educational Psychology. Since fall 2013, Roseth has been co-director of the EPET doctoral program, and became a full professor on June 1, 2018.

“This is a huge honor,” Roseth said. “I am part of an amazing department and college; the faculty are great scholars. To be asked to take a leadership role is humbling.”

Cary Roseth headshot

Cary Roseth

Marketplace of ideas

Roseth calls back to the legacy of the department in his vision for the future.

Richard Prawat headshot

Richard Prawat

“CEPSE has been and continues to be a place where many people flourish; for this, we owe a big thank you to Dr. Prawat,” he said.

Roseth studies the ways peers affect each other’s motivation, achievement and behavior. Specifically, he examines the social-psychological mechanisms underlying these processes and developing practical strategies to ensure peers promote rather than inhibit each other’s successes.

“There is increasing pressure today to view higher education in marketplace terms, with students being viewed as ‘clients’ and the value of faculty members measured by ROI, or returns on investment,” Roseth said. “But this metaphor confuses higher education’s financial health with its core missions. After all, we are in the marketplace of ideas, where success is measured by new knowledge and practical contributions—not dollars and cents.”

“What this means for our department is that our needs for resources must be closely linked with our missions in research, teaching and service,” he continued. “The challenge for a chairperson is how to create both a realistic and ambitious environment where faculty and students have the resources they need to pursue knowledge and improve educational practice.”

Roseth outlined a few principles for his plans, tied together by one goal: Better Together by Design. These include:

  • Continuous Improvement: Build a robust department culture that challenges the status quo, develops a shared vision of the future and works collaboratively to get there.
  • Transparency: Ensure open and inclusive communication with regular feedback opportunities and predictable decision-making processes.
  • Shared Governance: Foster collaboration among CEPSE’s five programs, while also supporting their autonomy.
  • Strategic Use of Resources: Use CEPSE’s financial resources and the unique intellectual diversity of its programs to foster creativity, attract and retain world-class scholars, and make sound judgments about priorities and policies.

“CEPSE enjoys a great foundation, but also faces serious challenges within and outside the department,” Roseth continued. “We need to build on our strengths by changing what needs to be changed, maintaining what does not … and of course having the wisdom to know the difference.”

Leadership legacy

Roseth’s background and previous success are an indicator of what’s to come for CEPSE.

Though he had originally planned to be a medical doctor (majoring in pre-med and Spanish at Dartmouth College), there was also a familial pull to take a different path: His wife, mother and a great aunt were all teachers. So, during a one-year break between his undergraduate coursework and medical school, he began teaching at a boarding school in New Hampshire. It was there that his love for analytics, innovation and research broke through.

Roseth describes a recent research project.

Roseth describes his research.

After a series of promotions from assistant dean of students all the way through assistant headmaster of Kimball Union Academy, Roseth took the next step to obtain his master’s and doctoral degrees.

“I found the leadership roles to be meaningful,” he said. “As a teacher, you have ideas about how to do things differently and then, as an administrator, you have the opportunity to act on some of those ideas. My sense was that research should play a more important role in the development and testing of those ideas, using data to support innovation.”

Roseth is now in his fifth year as associate editor of the Journal of Educational Psychology. He has served as chair of and been honored by various special interest groups in the American Educational Research Association (AERA), and he was a leader in various capacities for the American Psychological Association, Div. 15. To date, he’s also published 37 journal articles and 10 chapters and presented his research around the world, most recently at a 2017 UNESCO conference on school violence in South Korea.

At MSU, he has taught 38 courses, and graduated 10 doctoral advisees. He’s also served on 120 graduate student committees in all five CEPSE programs and three other university programs. He has also served on a variety of greater MSU committees, including the Faculty Senate, the University Council and as a faculty liaison to the Board of Trustees. In 2013, he was also recognized with a MSU Teacher-Scholar Award.

The next steps

With his prior leadership experience, scholarly achievement and his vision for the future of the department, Roseth is well-prepared for his new role as CEPSE’s chairperson. 

Immediately after his appointment, he met with all CEPSE staff members and program directors to get a sense of the department as a whole, including what is happening in each role. He then initiated a self-study of the department’s staff operations by surveying all faculty and program staff about administrative communication, efficiency and effectiveness, with the hope of establishing a baseline understanding of the department’s strengths and weaknesses. Using these data, he will then work with faculty and staff to develop a shared vision of the department’s future—and how to get there.

“CEPSE’s vision cannot be mine alone; it must be shared,” he added. “Everyone—faculty, staff and students—should have a voice in deciding where we are, where we need to go and how we’re going to get there. By working together to achieve these goals, I’m confident our performance will improve, our relationships will strengthen and we will ultimately be able to realize CEPSE’s full potential.”

Related links

Read more on Roseth’s research: