A FIRST IN THE COLLEGE OF EDUCATION

By Brooke Adams, communications specialist, University Communications

When the call came to report to the dean’s office, Aaron Fischer wasn’t sure why he was being asked to the face-to-face meeting. Was something amiss? Was he in trouble?

Assistant Professor Aaron Fischer, moments after learning he would receive an endowed professorship.

Far from it. Much to his surprise, Fischer learned he is the inaugural recipient of the Dee Endowed Professorship in School Psychology—the first endowed professorship in the College of Education.

“It was a huge surprise,” said Fischer, an assistant professor in school psychology. “I am incredibly honored. It was a huge validation for the work I am doing at the U and where my ideas are taking me. These funds will enhance my research by giving me considerable opportunities to purchase contemporary technology, ultimately allowing me to pursuing creative leaps in my work that would otherwise be impossible.””

A donation from the Candace and Tim Dee family made the endowment to the college’s Department of Educational Psychology possible. Candace Dee earned a doctorate in school psychology from the U in 1998 and served as a school psychology for the Jordan School District. She also was an adjunct professor and supervisor.

Fischer calls Candace Dee the department’s “No. 1 advocate.”

Endowed professorships make it possible for the university to establish a lasting tribute to donors and to recognize and retain outstanding faculty scholars such as Fischer.

“As the college dean and former professor of Dr. Candace Dee, I am deeply appreciative of the generous contribution made by Candace and her husband, Tim Dee, to establish the first endowed professorship in the College of Education,” said Elaine Clark. “Aaron Fischer epitomizes the work for which this honor is intended. He has demonstrated a high level of scholarly productivity and achievement as well as a strong commitment to the preparation of school psychologists, researchers and academicians.”

Fischer’s research is focused on integrating technology into psychological practice in schools and in pediatric medical settings. He has recently looked at the effectiveness and acceptability of psychological consultation services delivered through video conferencing, modeled after telehealth practices. In a recent journal article, he reported research results showing the telehealth model can effectively expand access to school psychology consultants—which makes it a good tool for bridging geographic distance and providing service to underserved areas.

Assistant Professor Aaron Fischer with a telepresence robot.

Fischer is in the fifth year of a study assessing the technology’s acceptability and effectiveness in changing student behavior in three Utah school districts. The research makes use of a telepresence robot—just like the one Andy set up in a “Modern Family” episode so Phil didn’t miss a family event.

“This generation of kids is completely comfortable with technology,” Fischer said. “Once they figure out they can’t take pictures or play games with it, it becomes just a piece of technology in the room.”

Using the robot, Fischer and his graduate students are able to consult with teachers who are working with students to manage emotional or problem behavior. Over the course of the study, the technology has allowed Fischer and his team to work with more than 200 students and 100 teachers or paraprofessionals.

Understanding how video conferencing works is particularly important as it may help school districts overcome a national short of school psychologists. The shortage is problematic, Fischer said, given the growing need for mental health services due to abuse, neglect, poverty, anxiety and a sense of alienation among youth.

A local example of the need: The Jordan School District has decided to place a full-time school psychologist in each of its 36 elementary schools, a move driven by concern about students’ mental health.