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Alumna Dr. Susan Zola Named First-Ever Convocation Guest Speaker

by Communications Office / May 1, 2019

Susan Zola

From her perspective as teacher, principal, administrator, mother, and wife of the late Dr. David Zola, the Champaign Unit 4 superintendent says the College of Education at Illinois continues to be an important part of the “Zola Family Story.”

The College of Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is pleased to announce that Dr. Susan Zola will deliver the keynote address at the College’s 2019 Convocation Ceremony. Zola is the first individual outside of faculty or administration in the College’s history to be invited to address graduates, their family, and friends.

Zola, is a 29-year employee of Unit 4 and has served as superintendent, overseeing the district's 12 elementary schools, since July 2017. Born and raised in the Edgar County city of Paris, Illinois, Zola was class president at Paris High School before graduating in 1980.

After earning her bachelors and master’s degrees in Education from Eastern Illinois University, Zola married David, a beloved clinical professor in the Department of Educational Psychology for more than 30 years until his passing last September. Susan began her own doctoral work in the Department of Education, Organization, and Leadership in 1993 and was awarded her PhD from the College of Education at Illinois in 1997.

“The College of Education has held a place of honor in our home for more than 30 years,” said Zola. “Our children spent many hours ‘helping Dad’ on campus. Being invited to speak came as both a wonderful surprise followed by sincere gratitude, given our family’s long history with the College.”

An accomplished and highly-regarded career educator, Zola considers her most important focus to be addressing issues of equity to meet the needs of the over 10,000 students in her school district. The district is also working on a series of building projects over the next few years.

“The equity lens allows us to examine academic programming, develop support for underperforming groups, and provide equitable facilities for all students. As important is the continued need to evaluate our structures and curriculum, given the diverse needs of the students and families we serve,” said Zola.

Zola represents the fulfillment and continuation of the College of Education’s legacy—to train talented leaders in the field of education who are compassionate, dedicated, and committed to making the world a better, more equitable place for all learners.

This year’s Convocation Ceremony takes place on Saturday, May 11, at 1 p.m. at Huff Hall, 1206 S. Fourth Street, Champaign. Find out more details about Convocation here.