New MTSU education dean looks to build up existing excellence, modernize to best serve students

Mar 08, 2023 at 11:01 pm by WGNS News

Mark Byrnes and Nephorcha Cone

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — For Neporcha Cone, the new dean of MTSU’s College of Education, the university’s award-winning teacher preparation program drew her in because she believes it is well-positioned to produce educational leaders of the future. 

“The university is made up of a dynamic body of administrators, faculty, staff and students who are committed to empowering and creating change in a global society,” Cone said. “I’m looking forward to building on the strengths of our internal and external stakeholders, as well as highlighting our dedication to being difference makers.” 


Following a nationwide search, Cone was recently named to take the helm of the college that represents the university’s founding as a teacher-training institution. She comes to MTSU from Kennesaw State University in Georgia where she is a professor of science education. She’ll begin her MTSU role in July. 

Originally from Miami, Florida, Cone started her career in the classroom as a middle school science teacher in the late ’90s in a predominantly Hispanic community while also completing her master’s and doctorate degrees. She transitioned to postdoctoral work and higher education in 2006.  

“I completed my post doctorate at the University of Miami where I worked with scholars, elementary teachers, principals and students to develop curriculum and assessment instruments for multilingual learners,” Cone said. “I moved through the traditional faculty ranks of assistant, associate and full professor and also worked as a course coordinator, program coordinator, department chair and interim associate dean during my years in higher education and most recently at Kennesaw State University in Georgia.” 

MTSU Provost Mark Byrnes said it was this background and experience along with her enthusiasm that made Cone an impressive candidate whom they viewed ready to lead the college.  

“I expect Dr. Cone to lead our College of Education through the highly challenging environment facing public education these days,” Byrnes said. “There are plenty of problems to confront, and I’m counting on her to take them on, along with her colleagues in the college.” 

In recent years, the college has received many accolades and awards for its high-quality programming:  

  • Recognized by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, the “gold standard” for educator preparation. 
  • Ranked by National Council on Teacher Quality as having among the nation’s best elementary teacher preparation program. 
  • Ranked consistently as the No. 1 producer of most effective teachers in Tennessee based on data from the Teacher Educator Preparation Program Report Card. 
  • Launched Center for Fairness, Justice and Equity to cultivate an inclusive and diverse college. 
  • Had multiple alumni awarded prestigious recognition for their work, including two winning Milken Educator Award — known as the “Oscar” of education. 

To highlight these many accomplishments, Cone’s initial goals include increasing the college’s visibility and national footprint.  

“There is so much great work being done by faculty, staff and students of which others might be unaware, so I plan to celebrate our tremendous accomplishments by sharing our stories with internal and external constituents,” Cone said.  

“I want the larger community to see us as ‘difference makers’ who effectively prepare teachers, leaders and entrepreneurs to solve problems that exist in local and global communities. I am committed to working collaboratively with the larger community through meaningfully engaged partnerships.” 

Cone wants to build on the college’s existing excellence to propel it forward in a 21st century world.  

“I want to improve teacher workforce diversity by building a diverse teacher pipeline,” Cone said. “I want the college to continue to play a critical role in workforce development by offering a strong sense of community, continuing to seek meaningful connections on campus and engaging in interdisciplinary or cross-disciplinary collaborations.” 

Cone emphasized that the education of educators is hugely important to the university and larger community. 

“Educators are the backbone of our democracy,” she said. “They create spaces that foster 21st century skills such as curiosity, creativity and innovation, which are important to the university and the pursuit of excellence in education.” 

The college is currently led by interim Dean Rick Vanosdall, who stepped in following the 2020 retirement of longtime dean, Lana Seivers, now a dean emeritus of the college. 

MTSU’s College of Education is made up of the Department of Elementary and Special Education and the Womack Department of Educational Leadership, offering undergraduate and graduate programs in both. It also includes several centers and professional areas. For more information, visit


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