Alumna named Greensboro College dean

Michelle Plaisance
Thursday, June 25, 2020

UNC Charlotte double alumna Michelle Plaisance ’09 M.A.T. ’14 Ph.D.  has been named dean of the School of Humanities at Greensboro College. Plaisance has taught English and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) at the college since 2014, also serving as director of the TESOL program. 

Upon graduation from UNC Wilmington with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish in 1992, teaching was not a career of interest for Plaisance. She experimented with a variety of jobs before discovering a passion for TESOL through the lens of a parent to her two daughters.

“Of all the moments that have changed our lives, it was watching the girls’ passage into the public school system and the process of becoming literate that fascinated me the most,” she said.  “And it was seeing the differences between their experiences and those of their non-English speaking peers that put me on my current path.”

Plaisance went on to teach English as a Second Language in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and then served as an adjunct instructor and program coordinator for UNC Charlotte’s English Language Training Institute.

It was during this transition into working in higher education that Plaisance earned a Master of Arts in Teaching in TESOL, followed by a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction at UNC Charlotte.

“UNC Charlotte is a great institution with a lot to offer, but it was definitely the dedicated faculty and the emphasis on social justice and inclusion that were the defining characteristics of both of my graduate programs,” she said. “I was given multiple opportunities to study, teach and research in ways that completely prepared me for academia. I owe a debt of gratitude to the faculty who gave me such a great start.”

Addressing social justice issues while working with emphatic and “big-hearted” colleagues who both teach and learn from their students is an important part of Plaisance’s enthusiasm for TESOL, she explained.

“The teachers and students I work with are already compassionate and caring, but I hope their studies in TESOL will help them to direct their energies to humanizing the education of language minorities and providing a meaningful and realistic education to English learners around the world.”

Plaisance has published numerous journal articles and book chapters on English language learning and course design and presented at conferences across the country. She received the Virginia Clarke Gray Award (2018), as well as the Moore Professorship (2019) from Greensboro College for outstanding accomplishments in her field.

“I was not surprised to hear that Michelle was selected as dean,” said Teresa Petty, interim dean of the Cato College of Education, who taught Plaisance at UNC Charlotte. “She has always impressed me with her energy, vision, leadership and commitment. She is a wonderful person to lead the school.”

Plaisance will begin her tenure as dean of the School of Humanities at Greensboro College on Aug. 1.