New College of Education dean aims to lead charge in changing field

5 – minute read

Diana Cheshire’s educational journey is characterized by a lifelong commitment to teaching, innovation and positive change.


Embarking on her journey in education as a middle school math teacher in California provided her with valuable teaching experience. Subsequently, she assumed leadership roles aimed at advancing teaching and learning in education. These included serving as the assistant provost for teaching and learning at The Citadel, dean of the School of Education and Exercise Science at Marian University, director of institutional assessment at George Fox University and other administrative and faculty positions.  


Cheshire’s impact extended even further when she founded the Center for Excellence and Innovation in Teaching, Learning, and Distance Education at The Citadel. In this capacity, she oversaw the administration of the institution’s online learning programs and degrees, the Learning Management System and other educational technologies while also offering support and professional development for both face-to-face and online teaching.


But she longed for more direct engagement with students. So when she saw FGCU’s opening for dean of the College of Education, she applied. And she got the job.

FGCU dean
"My vision is to strengthen our impact in this region and beyond,” Diana Cheshire says.

“I was a middle school math teacher and I have been a dean in education, so going back to the field of education is what really intrigued me about this position,” said Cheshire, whose first day at FGCU was Aug. 1. “I wanted to be in a leadership role to make a difference again in PK-12 education.”

Her vision extends beyond managing people and programs; it encompasses inspiring a collective commitment to positive change within the educational landscape.


“Currently, we find ourselves in a period of profound influence and change in the field of education. This is the time to really make an impact, to lead that charge and to lead that change,” she said.


While not everyone embraces change, it is inevitable. Having a voice in leading change makes all the difference, Cheshire said. “I believe our College of Education is a change agent in Southwest Florida. My vision is to strengthen our impact in this region and beyond.”

FGCU teaching intern
FGCU education majors intern at schools throughout Southwest Florida, and 100% secure jobs upon graduating.

Among the ways she sees the college and FGCU as a change agent in education:


  • Opening an Early Childhood Development Center, in partnership with the Naples Children & Education Foundation, at Florida SouthWestern State College’s Collier County campus. FGCU and the College of Education will manage the center as they do with Little Eagles Learning Center on FGCU’s main campus. “I consider the early childhood development centers to be extensions of the College of Education that serve the community and get our education majors and other FGCU students into a setting to do practicums and conduct research.”


  • Examining the needs of Southwest Florida and partnering with community leaders to add more programs to meet those needs. “At the heart of our mission lies a dedication to excellence in education in this region. We offer a diverse range of undergraduate, graduate and certificate programs, including doctoral degrees. Whether a student is passionate about PK-12 education, instructional design, school counseling, research, higher education or leadership, the college has programs that don’t just impact education, but business, healthcare and other industries.”


  • Expanding the FGCU R.I.S.E. program. R.I.S.E. is Southwest Florida’s first academy for adults with intellectual disabilities. “Our college is striving to meet the needs of all students. This program exemplifies this mission and our commitment to individuals with special needs.”


  • Expanding the reach of the College of Education through teaching partnerships and study abroad opportunities in other countries. “Our geographical advantage in Southwest Florida is a unique asset. It allows us to engage with a wide range of populations and cultures, enriching the learning experience for our students. Expanding beyond Florida broadens our students’ and faculty’s perspectives even more.”
FGCU grads
FGCU R.I.S.E. graduated its first class last spring.

Another goal of Cheshire is for the college to stay at the forefront of educational innovation. She is confident that it will happen. It didn’t take her long to realize that her faculty are dedicated to excellence in teaching, research and continuous improvement.


“One of the cornerstones of our educational approach is our commitment to innovation and continuous improvement,” she said. “Our faculty are engaged in research and professional development to support the integration of best practices in the field, including the use of new technologies like AI, strategies for online learning and pedagogy that support students with special needs, improved literacy achievement and mental wellness, just to name a few. This ensures that our graduates are not just well-prepared for their evolving fields, but are also positioned to be leaders in shaping the future.”

Reflecting on her journey, Cheshire’s belief that educators have the power to change the world is not a mere sentiment – it’s a driving force behind everything she does. Her passion, years of teaching experience and extensive leadership roles in academia all converge into a singular commitment – to be a force for positive, transformational change.


“If there was a tagline for me, it’d be ‘a champion for transformative education,’” she said. “I really believe that educators have the ability to change the world.”

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