The epitome of selflessness

dean debbie mercer

Dean Debbie Mercer’s leadership of the College of Education has brought countless advancements.

The epitome of selflessness.” That’s how Lee and Barbara Harris, founders of Tomorrow’s Teacher Scholarship Program, describe Dean Debbie Mercer.

For more than a decade, Dean Mercer has boldly advanced the College of Education. In her tenure, she has made strides in a variety of areas, leading to national acclaim for the K-State College of Education.

Dean Mercer’s selfless leadership does not go unnoticed. While she has had a hand in dozens of advancements for the College of Education, a few areas of success include:

Academic Initiatives

The Master of Arts in Teaching is a 12-month program that allows students to complete their master’s in elementary education or secondary education in modern languages, social studies, English/language arts and agriculture education. The program is designed as a 31-credit, digital curriculum. The program emphasizes inclusive learning environments that facilitate individual and collaborative learning.

The Virtual Summer STEAM Academy is a partnership between Manhattan-Ogden USD #383 and the College of Education. The STEAM Summer Institute has provided fifth to ninth graders an opportunity to learn about STEAM-related concepts (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) and participate in experiential learning activities since 2011. However, with school building closings in 2020, the 10th anniversary of the Summer STEAM Institute took a digital approach: the Summer STEAM Virtual Academy. The teachers of the program quickly adapted to online learning, providing the widest scope of offerings yet. From learning animation to exploring the relation between music and STEM, the virtual academy pushed boundaries and reached new levels of success.


Student teacher scholarships have become a top priority under Dean Mercer’s leadership. Because student teachers work full-time in the classroom, it limits their ability to pursue outside work. The College of Education now offers many support scholarships for student teachers, in both secondary and elementary education. The scholarships not only offset the limited ability to work, but also provide support for addition expenses such as traveling to school and purchasing professional clothing.

Dean Mercer said, “Student needs during this semester were increasing. For example, student teachers were returning to campus to visit our food pantry. We began telling the story of student teaching. The long hours, the intensive workload and the emotional pressure of assuming more and more student-learning responsibility.”

Click here to read more.

K-State: An Alphabet Journey Across Campus is an alphabet tour of the K-State campus co-written by Debbie Mercer and Lotta Larson. The book illustrates the Wildcat family, and the proceeds directly benefit scholarships for College of Education students.

Click here to learn more and purchase a book.


Under Dean Mercer’s leadership, the Department of Curriculum and Instruction has instituted the Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Fair. The fair takes place each semester and creates a space for undergraduate students to present their research.

The NACADA Center for Research at Kansas State University is the first global think tank and serves as a means to research academic advising and student success.

Communications and Branding

The Crash the Class video series was launched in 2018 as way to celebrate early career teachers. With monthly videos, #crashtheclass honors teachers who are pursuing excellence in their field. To view the series, click here.

EDCATS is a College of Education branding initiative that serves to recruit new students to the college and build pride amongst education students, faculty and alumni. EDCATS stands for:

  • E: Exceptional Experience
  • D: Dedicated Faculty & Staff
  • C: Connected Community
  • A: Advocates for All
  • T: Technology & Innovation
  • S: Student-centered

EDCATS apparel is sold with 5% of proceeds supporting the College of Education scholarship fund. Click here to view the apparel store.

Pandemic and Digital Programming

Remote Learning P-12 is a digital resource community for schools, teachers and parents. The platform was created as a public service by K-State faculty. The community created a space for contributors to share resources and questions to aid student learning during COVID-19.  Learn more here.

The Art of Online Teaching and Remote Learning Summer Workshop was offered for undergraduate students in the summer of 2021 as a response to remote learning. The 6-week course provided students with skills and resources to aid in their ability to teach digitally. Click here to learn more about the workshop.


By establishing an e-textbook initiative for faculty, students collectively saved more than $1.5 million on textbooks. Read about how Textbooks 2.0 helps the College of Education here.

Through a collegewide technology plan, College of Education students have a 1:1 iPad ratio, made possible through philanthropic gifts.


  • 2021 U.S. News and World Report rankings for online education programs
    • 10th – Curriculum and Instruction online master’s
    • 12th – Special Education master’s
    • 27th – Adult Learning and Leadership
    • 46th – Overall ranking for online master’s degrees in education
  • 2021 Billy G. Dixon Award Distinguished Teacher Program Award – Association of Teacher Educators
  • 2017 Outstanding Services to Underserved Populations Award for the Integrated Language Skills Program – Association for Continuing Higher Education

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

The Call Me MISTER program, established in 2015, seeks to increase the pool of male teachers from diverse backgrounds. MISTER stands for Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role Models. Call Me MISTER participants are primarily selected from under-served and educationally at-risk communities. Read about Call Me MISTER here.

The Social Justice Education Graduate Certificate instructs students in the principles to create change within communities and workplaces, both in formal and non-formal education settings. The 15-credit hour, online certificate focuses on creating equal-opportunity resources while combatting inequity. Learn more here.

A Word of Gratitude

When asked about Dean Mercer’s role in the College of Education, alumni and donors Dan and Cheryl Yunk said, “She has the ability to think outside of the box, and at the same time, she can see the big picture for both the present and the future. She is excellent at building relationships with students, faculty and alumni, which strengthens the College of Education as an institution.”

Dean Mercer’s hard work not only impacts those within the College of Education, but also serves as an inspiration within her own family. Dean Mercer’s husband, Jim Adams, says that throughout the past 20 years, he has had the honor of watching Dean Mercer serve as dean of the College of Education and Technology at Fort Hays, to associate dean at K-State, and now, dean. Through her hard work, Jim says he has learned about how to work with others towards a common goal, while collaborating with a multitude of personalities, philosophies and backgrounds.

Dean Mercer empowers people to think about what has not been done before. This trait has led to results such as the implication of the Masters in Arts in Teaching program as well as working with teachers in different countries. Jim says that Dean Mercer works constantly to amplify the mission that, next to parents, teachers are the most important influencers in a child’s life. She works to show teachers their importance and share that with the world.

“When she advocates for the college, the faculty and staff, the university, etc., the lift in her voice and face makes me feel so honored to know who she is, what she does and that I am in her life,” Jim said. “She is truly one of the most transformative people I have ever met and I can’t imagine my life without her in it.”

In addition to encouraging those she works with to reach new benchmarks, Jim says that Dean Mercer is great strategist, looking at a variety of approaches and choosing what will be most advantageous.

“Both of those strengths are solidified by the fact that Debbie is never looking for accolades or notoriety for herself,” Jim said. “Sometimes, I think she would prefer that the attention not be drawn or focused on her, but rather on all of the others that have helped accomplish what has been done.  By doing this, she encourages the strength and skills of the people of the College of Education to collectively want to advance the purpose and mission of the college.”

Written by Ariana Brancato

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