Innovative educator to be inducted into SD Hall of Fame


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Aug 21, 2023

Innovative educator to be inducted into SD Hall of Fame

This interview originally aired on In the Moment on SDPB Radio. Throughout her 33-year educational career, Pamela Homan, Ph.D., was motivated by one core belief: Every child should get the chance to

This interview originally aired on In the Moment on SDPB Radio.

Throughout her 33-year educational career, Pamela Homan, Ph.D., was motivated by one core belief: Every child should get the chance to succeed.

She joined In the Moment to reflect back on her time as an educator, administrator and innovator. She talks about giving all students access to the education they deserve and helping every student learn their potential.

Dr. Homan will be inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame in September.

Lori Walsh:You are listening to In The Moment on South Dakota Public Broadcasting. I'm Lori Walsh. She's an educator, administrator, and foremost an innovator. Dr. Pam Homan spent more than 33 years in K through 12 public education. She's considered one of the most effective and inventive administrators in the state of South Dakota. She's now the chief strategy officer and executive vice president at Augustana University. Dr. Homan will be welcomed into the 2023 South Dakota Hall of Fame for her contributions to the field of education, and she's also with me today in the Kirby Family Studio here in Sioux Falls. Pam Homan, welcome. Thanks for being here.

Dr. Pam Homan:Thank you, and thank you for having me.

Lori Walsh:Congratulations on this really well-deserved honor. We've got some heavy hitters who wrote recommendation letters for you too, so that's not nothing to shake a stick at. What does the hall of fame mean for you?

Dr. Pam Homan:I'm so completely humbled and honored and truly surprised. I mean, the day that John and Laurie called me, I was driving my vehicle to tell me that I had been selected and I nearly thought I was going to have an accident. I thought, "Whoa, I need to pull over here. Are you certain you're calling the right person?" It was just a wonderful honor.

Lori Walsh:The rest of us are certain. I was just telling you before we turn the microphones on that as I look through your bio, so much of what you did in K through 12 education directly impacted my daughter, the school that she went to, the technology she had, some of the programs that she had, and that's not even counting the things that you did for her peers. I was kind of briefly overwhelmed at how much better you had made our life, and although we knew who you were as superintendent, we didn't necessarily know you personally. How do you sort of deal with the fact that as an administrator, you're making these decisions that are so important, but maybe nobody knows that you were on that team or that that was an idea that generated from your office or your team or yourself?

Dr. Pam Homan:For me, it's a personal joy to reflect on all the pathways we were able to implement for the children in Sioux Falls and really know exactly where that conversation began, how that program started. I've often thought I want to capture those someday, somehow because the commitment to be able to see that every child should be able to succeed, and they don't all learn in the same way at the same time or the same space. So, it really allowed me the opportunity to truly try to live and breathe that for the children in Sioux Falls.

Lori Walsh:From an A+ Arts integrated school, to a project-based learning, to a Chromebook in every kid's hand, to special education and working with kids with dyslexia to behavioral, the Bridges Program, this is all something that you had a lot to do with. Am I gushing?

Dr. Pam Homan:Every one has every-

Lori Walsh:I think I might've started gushing there.

Dr. Pam Homan:Every one of those programs has a fun and unique story behind it. The Bridges Program, at that time, I had been in K-12 education, and I left K-12 for two years to start the day adolescent psychiatric program at a hospital in Sioux Falls, and I was hired into the Sioux Falls School District, literally to start and pull together the behavior programs. So, created it and got to name it the Bridges Program, so that we could help those children who were just coming to school with their backpacks, so filled with problems they couldn't learn.

Lori Walsh:I remember one of those kids whom I won't name but graduated from high school and is very successful now, but he was one of those kids that came up... He is in class with my daughter and she's in kindergarten. He's in class with her and she's in first grade, and he just has a lot of behavioral problems. Everybody knows this kid's name. They just created this loving space for him, and I remember saying to somebody, "He deserves an education every bit as much as my kid who's really gifted and picking up information very quickly." They're friends and they're both trying to figure out how to get the most. And you believe that. You believe that about every one of those kids who has that backpack full of problems.

Dr. Pam Homan:Yeah, every child. One of my other greatest joys now is a grandmother. I have four grandchildren that live in Sioux Falls and three of them are at Sonia Sotomayor, the Spanish immersion program. When that started, I was in Slovakia visiting my daughter who was serving as a missionary and went into a school that was just in this remote little village, a stone's throw from the Ukrainian border. And those children were learning three languages. I remember coming home, pulling the team together saying, "Our children need the opportunity to be bilingual." So, we had the conversation and that started the beginning of the Spanish immersion program. And to put it into place, and I look at what we have today, and it's just such a blessing to know that if a parent aspires their child to know more than one language, they can go to school and learn it.

Lori Walsh:When did you know that you wanted to be the first female superintendent for South Dakota School District or for Sioux Falls School District? You didn't necessarily have a role model in that specific spot, but you had other role models. Who were the people that helped you believe you could be a leader?

Dr. Pam Homan:I would say that, boy, several. The teachers I had in Sioux Falls coming through. I'm a product of the Sioux Falls School District, so the teachers I had from elementary to middle to high school. And then, certainly, when I was in teaching positions and administrative positions, there were key people in this community, in the state that would lean in to me and allow me opportunities, the opportunity to take a risk, the opportunity to think creatively, the opportunity to try. And it just built on itself that built that internal confidence to say, "I feel like I'm called to lead, help others go where they're not going to go alone, and work as a team and make an impact for..." My heart hurts for the children who don't have the opportunity to see their own gifts and benefits and to flourish.

Lori Walsh:Yeah. You are with Augustana University right now, also my alma mater, so you've got an Augie hockey jersey on.

Dr. Pam Homan:I do.

Lori Walsh:Or polo, I should say, not a jersey. Big changes at Augustana. How are people navigating? What is your role at Augie and how does it all kind of intersecting with big things like hockey but then also the academics and just growth at the university?

Dr. Pam Homan:Certainly, my role is the chief strategy officer and executive vice president oversees the advancement office, the alumni relations, the strategic communications and marketing, some facilities and logistical events, as well as the pieces of the web and social media, and the strategic plan. So, when we implemented Viking Bold, there's multiple strategies and goals dealing with athletics, academics, physical campus, enrollment and strategic scholarships, and then the campaign. So, my job is to make certain that I have boots on the ground, I know what's happening, where, when, and how, and to keep supporting and moving things forward, at the same time, thinking out of the box and thinking creatively as we work with our faculty who are just fabulous to continue to bring in new academic programs because we're committed to not be... Everything we do is to add value and to make certain that we've started the momentum and it's just gaining on itself daily and it's an exciting place to be.

Lori Walsh:Yeah. Tell me a little bit about how you create a culture of collaboration that allows people to come up with new innovative ideas, but then also the ideas that can be accomplished.

Dr. Pam Homan:We've really benefited from bringing people together and listening sessions. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, our president, has done a tremendous job as we pull people together for input sessions and think creatively to think based upon data and information, what's the future hold and which direction should we go, and really build a lot of trust, that when we engage the right people around the table and listen carefully, and then talk about what are the possibilities, where may be the barriers, and what do we need to work through, and rather than tell people, engage people with us in the process.

Lori Walsh:Yeah. What are some of the challenges facing higher education right now that you feel Augustana is uniquely positioned to navigate well?

Dr. Pam Homan:What we're seeing coming through, the demographic cliff clearly. The college age population will be declining on us. At the same time, we see... The same things that were in K-12 education, that are in K-12 education is the emotional needs of students, of society. So, Augie's positioned because of our student support services, and the size of our campus, and the commitment of our faculty and staff to really... Each student is known and supported. At the same time, we're not afraid to be innovative and recognize that the diversity of this community in this state and the region has changed, and we need to make certain that we are committed to a sense of diversity, equity, inclusion for all, that we know we don't all fit in the same box anymore. So, we've worked hard to embrace and include and bring people to the table and support them.

Lori Walsh:Dr. Pam Homan, congratulations on being inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame. I did gush a little bit. Okay, I graduated from Augie and you helped my kid be successful, so everyone will forgive me for that a little bit. But thanks so much for everything and thanks for stopping by.

Dr. Pam Homan:You're welcome. Thank you.