Meet the Dean: David L. Bell, Ed.D.–Informal Conversations with the Deans of St. John’s University

David Bell Headshot
February 24, 2020

David L. Bell, Ed.D., was born and raised in Chicago, IL. He became Dean of The School of Education on August 1, 2019. Dr. Bell arrived at St. John’s from West Chester University, PA, where he served as Associate Dean for Curriculum and Accreditation in the College of Education and Social Work.

What was your initial career choice?

I originally wanted to become a lawyer but earned my degree in finance because I love numbers. I enjoy investing. I was a financial analyst for several years before I transitioned to teaching.

What is the one thing about you that few people know?

When I was in the third grade, I was involved in a singing choir called All God’s Children; we all wore red vests, blue pants, and white shirts. I thought I was not good at singing. I had to audition, but once accepted, I lip-synced the songs. 

How was your first semester at St. John’s?

It was exciting! I had the opportunity to engage with our talented faculty, administrators, and staff, and ensure they understand my personality, vision, and mission—while at the same time, I learned about their own history at St. John’s.

Describe your first day.

My first day was spent learning about the history and culture of The School of Education. I had honest conversations that gave me perspectives about the challenges, but also opportunities, for The School of Education.

Which words would you use to describe The School of Education?

Faculty and staff who are caring, mission-driven, and collaborative, with a high level of intellectual humility and integrity. 

What is the most gratifying thing you have learned about St. John’s so far?

Everyone here is warm and accepting and welcomed me with open arms. It is wonderful to have so many diverse people and colleagues who are willing to provide assistance and guidance.

What led you to the field of education?

There were a lot of teachers in my world growing up—my mother, my aunt, and all of my mother’s friends. But I never really thought about entering that field until soon after I sent my résumé to the accounting department of the public school system in Chicago. Someone from there contacted me and asked if I ever considered becoming a teacher. I was subsequently offered a position teaching the fifth grade. On my first day, I fell in love with the idea of sharing knowledge, facilitating learning, and helping students become voices for themselves.

Describe a typical workday for you as Dean of The School of Education.

I am an early bird. I usually get to my office at around 6:30 a.m. and spend about two hours responding to emails or getting some work done. After that, I have an open-door policy: if you have a question, you are welcome to come in and discuss it. The remainder of my day is usually focused on collaborating with colleagues on how we can reimagine the future of The School of Education and how we can best serve our students.

Is there a fun fact you want to share about The School of Education?

Here is an important fact to know: U.S. News & World Report released rankings in January that show The School of Education is among the Best 100 Online Programs for 2020. Our Online Graduate Education Program is ranked #31—up from #61 in 2019.

What is the best advice you can offer students?

If you want to be a teacher or counselor, you should understand what drives and motivates you to go in this direction. Before you enter this profession, you must possess an inner purpose, one that is larger than “I love kids.” You must be willing to develop your ability to be a fair-minded, critical thinker. It requires the willingness and openness to consider different perspectives and to reason logically in order to understand and problem solve in a variety of complex situations.