By Jenna Somers
The American University of Iraq—Baghdad has hired three alumni of Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of education and human development as the first faculty members of its new College of Education and Human Development. Allison Webster-Giddings, EdD’19, is the new dean of the college, and Pallavi Reddy, MEd’04, EdD’20, and Jason Fatz, EdD’23, are assistant professors.
In 2022, Peabody College and AUIB were awarded a two-year, $2.5 million grant from the U.S. State Department to design and launch AUIB’s new College of Education and Human Development focused on training and supporting the next generation of educators in Iraq. Commitments to research-based decision-making and learner-centered education guide the college’s design. Students will engage in evidence-based practices and approaches to strengthen educational opportunities in Iraq, the region, and across the globe.
Webster-Giddings, Reddy, and Fatz moved to Iraq in August and began teaching courses at AUIB’s College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Business in September. Before their departure, they completed an orientation and residency program at Peabody focused on building relationships with Peabody and AUIB colleagues, designing policies and processes, and understanding the needs of education and teacher training within the Iraqi context.
In spring 2024, Webster-Giddings, Reddy, and Fatz will spearhead the launch of the College of Education and Human Development’s first degree-granting program. They will teach learning design and other foundational courses for the major. AUIB plans to hire three additional faculty members to the college by next August.
Allison Webster-Giddings, dean of AUIB’s College of Education and Human Development
Since 2001, Webster-Giddings has held positions of increasing responsibility with the United States Naval Academy. Most recently, she was a faculty member in the Weapons, Robotics, and Control Engineering Department, where she was responsible for the integration and alignment of undergraduate student research and core and engineering major curriculum with the development of U.S. Navy programs for 3,300 students. She supported students and colleagues in developing research plans and projects and led initiatives for the faculty senate, the Center for Teaching and Learning, and the International Programs Office. Webster-Giddings also worked in administration at the U.S. Naval Academy, including as a master’s program student advisor, core course program director.
“Taking on this role of dean is a unique opportunity to lead in the creation of a new school and to collaborate with Vanderbilt’s design team and AUIB colleagues to strengthen education in Iraq, from kindergarten through college,” Webster-Giddings said. “As an American, former military member, and educator, I feel a sense of service in doing this work.”
Webster-Giddings is committed to supporting a diverse cohort of exceptional students with scholarships funded by the grant, ensuring that the college’s inaugural academic year is successful, and that six highly qualified faculty members are teaching courses by next August. She also wants to continue collaborating with Vanderbilt and to connect with other higher education institutions and K-12 schools in the U.S., as well as plan for the opening of a dedicated K-12 model school at AUIB.
Prior to her leadership in education, Webster-Giddings served in the Navy for 23 years, primarily as an experimental flight test pilot in program management and design, after receiving her credential from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School in 1991. She earned her education doctorate in higher education leadership and policy from Vanderbilt in 2019, her master of science in aviation systems from the University of Tennessee, Space Institute in 1994, and her bachelor of science in naval architecture from the United States Naval Academy in 1984.
Pallavi Reddy, assistant professor, AUIB’s College of Education and Human Development
Throughout her career, Reddy has sought to improve systems of education. She is a consultant with Goodworks Partnership consulting company, started by Peabody alumna, Kathleen Lennard, EdD’20. Along with Vice President Beth Ann Rankin, EdD’20, they develop integrated and evidence-based strategies and solutions to advance the work of educational institutions and non-profits.
As an educator for Metro Nashville Public Schools for 13 years, Reddy taught in elementary schools with multilingual students and, most recently, was a district coach and family engagement specialist for multilingual learners, working with a team to launch and scale professional development initiatives for the school district.
Reddy also served as a project manager at Vanderbilt and on the executive committee and the board of directors of the Nashville International Center for Empowerment to advocate and provide educational opportunities for students and families. Additionally, she taught English in China and the Czech Republic.
At AUIB, Reddy wants to support students to think critically about what it means to be an educator—not just in the classroom but in various contexts across Iraq—and how educators can contribute to a culture of learning throughout the country. Supporting the design of a high-quality education system is also personally important to Reddy.
“My parents moved to the U.S. from India for opportunity, and they missed out on moments in their younger years with their families, so I love that Vanderbilt isn’t only focused on bringing students from around the world to its campus but committed to working with communities to develop meaningful learning journeys,” Reddy said.
Reddy is a Double ’Dore, having earned her education doctorate in leadership and learning in organizations from Vanderbilt in 2020 and her master of education in elementary education in 2004. In 2002, she earned her bachelor of science in education and philosophy from East Tennessee State University.
Jason Fatz, assistant professor, AUIB’s College of Education and Human Development
Fatz brings a combined 16 years of educational leadership and instructional experience to his role at AUIB, including as a vice principal and teacher at Bahrain Bayan School in Isa Town, Bahrain, where he supported the recruitment and retention of teachers, initiated a social emotional learning program, and collaborate with colleagues to develop a STEAM learning curriculum.
Fatz was also an interim assistant principal and academic coach at middle and high schools in California and has taught at schools across the U.S.
In 2016 Fatz retired from the U.S. Army Reserve as a master sergeant after 21 years of service. He served in Iraq as a section sergeant in an engineering company and then as a reserve officer training corps instructor at higher education institutions across the U.S.
“I joined Vanderbilt’s doctoral program in leadership and learning in organizations because I wanted to teach teachers, so it’s meaningful to me to return to Iraq and train a new generation of the country’s teachers,” Fatz said. “Peabody instills in students a commitment to challenge ourselves and to apply what we learn to create positive change. Joining AUIB was the perfect opportunity to do that.”
Fatz earned his education doctorate from Vanderbilt in 2023 and his master of arts in teaching and bachelor of science in interdisciplinary social studies from James Madison University in 2007 and 2006, respectively.
The grant proposal was supported by Research Development and Support (RDS) which offers proposal development assistance for both private (foundations) and federally funded opportunities. RDS is in the Office of the Vice Provost for Research and Innovation.