‘Rising star’ tapped to lead Western’s College of Education and Human Development

Contact: Paula M. Davis

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Dr. Laura H. Dinehart, dean of the School of Education and Human Development at Florida International University, has been named dean of Western Michigan University's College of Education and Human Development. Her appointment begins July 1, pending Board of Trustees’ approval.

Dr. Laura H. Dinehart

“In her several leadership roles at FIU, Dr. Dinehart has helped guide a school of education that has seen extraordinary success in securing external funding to advance its research enterprise. During her tenure, the school also established several degree programs responsive to the contemporary needs of students preparing to be among the country’s next generation of teachers and school leaders,” says WMU Provost Julian Vasquez Heilig.

“To continue building on our own long track record of achievement, we are fortunate to have identified a rising star who we believe will elevate our College of Education and Human Development and serve the needs of our students, faculty and staff.” 

Dinehart’s current academic home, FIU, is a top-tier public research university based in Miami. Over the last seven years, FIU’s School of Education and Human Development experienced a 400% increase in external funding, and as of 2023, it was the country’s second fastest rising in the U.S. News and World Report’s ranking of graduate education schools. Under her leadership, the school has expanded in academic programs, launching a new doctoral degree, five new online master’s degrees and two new undergraduate programs. These efforts have been critical to supporting partnerships with school districts and community stakeholders, including Miami-Dade County Public Schools, which is the nation’s fourth largest school system.

“I am incredibly honored and excited to serve as the next dean of the College of Education and Human Development. I was drawn to WMU's dedication to enhancing the student experience, strengthening community partnerships, and committing to social justice, equity and inclusion,” Dinehart says.  “I look forward to working collaboratively with faculty and staff to envision and implement the next chapter of CEHD's legacy.”

Dinehart’s research—which has appeared in top journals and at numerous international conferences—focuses primarily on the developmental and early academic outcomes of young children within the context of the early care and education environment. Her work on the relationship between fine motor skills and later academic achievement has been featured in popular national media, including CNN, Education Week and NPR. In recent years, Dinehart’s work has expanded to focus on the business and leadership practices of early learning center directors.

“WMU CEHD faculty has a strong record of securing external funding, and I am excited to help grow that portfolio,” Dinehart says. “As a leader, I intend to encourage mentoring and community-building strategies within departments while also working as a facilitator to connect faculty with collaborative opportunities both within and outside the institution.”

After earning her Ph.D. in applied developmental psychology from the University of Miami, Dinehart joined the faculty of FIU as a visiting assistant professor in 2006. She was hired full time and ultimately rose to the rank of associate professor of early childhood education in the Department of Teaching and Learning.  

Dinehart began her tenure as a higher ed administrator in 2014 as chair of FIU’s Department of Leadership and Professional Studies in the College of Education. She went on to serve as an executive director and then senior associate dean in the School of Education and Human Development before becoming its dean in 2021.  

In addition to her doctorate, Dinehart also earned her master’s degree in applied developmental psychology from University of Miami. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from FIU. 

When she joins campus, she will succeed Dr. Kristal Ehrhardt who has provided steady leadership as interim dean following the passing of the longtime dean Dr. Ming Li.

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