Interview with Professor of Education Sue Ellen Henry


Courtesy of Sue Ellen Henry

Anna Jones


Associate Professor of Education Sue Ellen is an anomaly: she not only works inside the classroom, but outside as well, making her love of education known with everything she does.

Henry plays a number of roles at the University. This is her first faculty teaching position; however, she did a little teaching as a graduate student at the University of Virginia. Here on campus, she is a senior fellow of the Social Justice Residential College and takes care of tenure for staff members.

She has been at the University for 16 years and she says she’s stayed so long because of the people and the potential that people have on this campus.

“I experience this place as a place that wants to be better. I appreciate working with colleagues who are dedicated to good thinking, relevant thinking and enduring thinking,” Henry said.

Henry sees many places at the University where students can make an impact, and she appreciates that. 

“I enjoy having really good conversations about a social institution that is so central to our society,” Henry said.

Her view regarding the importance of education classes shows how dedicated she is to professing the value of this privilege.

“In the United States, we don’t all share the same language or the same religion; we don’t all eat the same food or watch the same TV shows. The two things I can say with relative certainty that you’ve experienced, if you grew up in the United States, are going to the mall and public schools,” Henry said.

She feels strongly that the public education system is a central institution of our society that connects people, relating to her role as a Senior Fellow of the Social Justice Residential College.

“Once you’re done with your education in the public schools, you can’t avoid people who have been educated by the public schools,” said Henry.

Henry also discussed the importance of majoring in education and its impact on the people who study the system.

“There are two kinds of education majors: those who have known that they want to be teachers since third grade–and that’s lovely–and those who wish to get involved with education at a different level. The first kind of people see a connection between schooling and society and want to be integrally involved. The other type can get a B.A. and work on education from a policy-making level, a guidance level, a higher education level or a children’s publishing or advocacy level. We still have an opportunity to reach education majors at a lot of different levels,” Henry said.

In addition to her main role as a professor, Henry has been on the University Review Committee for three years, and this year, she’s the co-chair. This committee is a group of elected faculty and administration that conducts university-level reviews for retention, tenure and promotion of the University’s faculty. 

“I believe it is an important function of the University to review faculty and make recommendations to the president and Board of Trustees about something as important as tenure. Tenure is important because it makes sure faculty remain active and free and are available to do the critical thinking that we need in this age,” Henry said.

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