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Chairman of the Board

“My time at the University of Oregon as a graduate student was a complete game changer for me,” said David Chard, PhD '95.

How much of a game changer? For starters, it set the Wheelock College president on a path that took him to the National Board for Education Sciences (NBES). Nominated by Barack Obama to serve on the board in 2011, his appointment was confirmed by a Senate vote; now, he is the board's chair.

“It was an amazing honor to be selected to serve and to be supportive of the work of researchers across the U.S. who are advancing our knowledge in the field of education,” he said.

As a member of the NBES, Chard advises the Institute of Educational Sciences, the wing of the Department of Education concerned with educational research. Among the fifteen members of the NBES are educators, psychologists, and researchers. Chard and the other board members work with the director of the Institute of Educational Sciences, as well as four commissioners, to create a research agenda—this verifies that all of the science involved is trustworthy, and the subsequent findings of high integrity.

The findings are then made accessible to both the general public and policymakers, who consult them in the formation of new education legislation. Essentially, the research Chard oversees works to improve education in America day in and day out.

Chard’s nomination to NBES came during a time of economic downturn. When funding for educational research was threatened by a tight budget, Chard advocated for it within the Department of Education. He recalled, “At times like these, budgets for research and development, particularly in education, are often a target for cuts… This work seemed to be particularly important in an economic downturn when education is an important part of the answer to our economic challenges.”

Chard grew up on a dairy farm in eastern Michigan. Most of his peers followed in the footsteps of their parents to become farmers or factory workers.

“It was a fantastic childhood, but the options in terms of post-school didn’t fit with my interests,” he said. “My teachers helped me see a world beyond the one where I grew up. I think I decided to pursue a career in teaching because I knew I’d be able to impact the lives of others like my teachers did mine.”

This passion led Chard to traverse the globe. From 1986 to 1990, he worked as a teacher in Lesotho for the Peace Corps. An impoverished land lacking in natural resources, Lesotho faced and continues to face many challenges. Among these are an inadequate food supply, a challenging relationship with South Africa, and a lacking workforce.

“Literacy rates and education in general remain a challenge for Lesotho," he said. "I hope to go back one day soon to see the Mountain Kingdom again."

When he returned home to the United States, Chard enrolled in the University of Oregon where he received his PhD in special education. After graduation, he chose to remain at the university and served as the director of middle-secondary education from 2000 to 2003, and then the associate dean of the College of Education from 2005 to 2007.

“To be able to work closely with leaders in the field of special education and education law and policy offered me tremendous opportunities to grow as a teacher and researcher," said Chard. "That experience set me up to work on issues related to students with learning disabilities and their teachers throughout my career.”

By advancing education through research, the opportunities for American children grow exponentially. For Chard, it is all in a day’s work.

“I have always enjoyed working with faculty, staff, and students who share the common interests of improving lives of children and their families,” he said. “The favorite parts of my career involve connecting with people around their goals and helping them achieve those goals.”

- Abby Keep, UO student

Photos courtesy Wheelock College