Grant Hayes is a familiar face around the College of Education and Human Performance, but the start of the fall and the new school year meant a new title for the UCF employee of 16 years: interim dean.

Hayes joined UCF in 1998 as an assistant professor of counselor education after previously teaching at James Madison University in Virginia. He went on to serve as a department chair, associate dean and executive associate dean for academic affairs before being named interim dean.

He came to UCF in search of what so many find here: opportunity.

“If you could think of it, you could do it. That is what was so exciting about coming to UCF,” said Hayes, a former K-12 teacher whose area of expertise is counseling, specifically in regard to training counselors, counseling children and adolescents, and moral development in youth settings.

In his new role as interim dean, Hayes aims to build on the college’s existing successes, such as its national reputation, strong academic programs, solid community partnerships and its diverse faculty and staff, which includes about 150 full-time instructors.

“There is a sense of renewal and change on the horizon as there are with any changes in leadership,” said Rose Taylor, a professor of educational leadership and the new interim associate dean for graduate studies. “Dean Hayes is exceptionally respected as an individual and as an accessible leader.”

Empathy and approachability are the keystones of Hayes’ leadership style and at the forefront of his open-door policy.

“With faculty, I can put myself in their position to understand what they’re dealing with or going through,” Hayes said. “Students may not think they have a direct pathway to me, but I want them to come to me if they have a concern, or even just to say hello.”

During the summer, Hayes reintroduced himself to the college’s faculty and discussed how the college will move forward and be more responsive and less reactive to challenges in education at the local and national levels. Hayes ended his remarks to faculty with the questions “How do you plan to respond this year?” and “What will be your contribution?”

The talk kick-started a semester that faculty and staff say is filled with new energy and excitement.

“He has inspired the college as a whole to focus on strengthening existing programs and elevating partnerships,” said Bryan Zugelder, the college’s executive director for undergraduate affairs and partnerships. “I am most looking forward to building upon the core strengths of our college and moving toward a new level of excellence as we strengthen our work.”

Hayes will make conversations with education faculty and staff part of his monthly routine, providing a forum for engagement and discussion about issues in education, topics of interest, and college initiatives.

The conversation series is called R.E.S.P.O.N.D. (Reflect, Engage, Speak, Participate, Observe, Nourish, Dialogue), and the first discussion will begin at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 1, in Room 305 of the Education Complex.

“I look forward to a very productive and rewarding year, and I am truly honored to serve in this role,” Hayes said.

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