Dunleavy nominated for prestigious SCHEV Outstanding Faculty Award

Matt Dunleavy, professor of Education

Matt Dunleavy, professor of education

Matt Dunleavy thinks you have unlimited potential.

Yes, you.

The Radford University education professor, who now serves as an interim director of Academic Affairs, has long inspired and motivated students and colleagues alike to reach their intellectual heights and achieve great success. "One of my primary goals is to get people fired up," he said, sounding a bit like a football coach preparing to run through a brick wall.

It's his enthusiasm and the triumphs of those whose lives he has touched that have led to grand strides for Radford University in the past few years. It's also one of the many reasons Dunleavy has been nominated for a 2014 State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) Outstanding Faculty Award (OFA), one of the Commonwealth's highest honors for faculty at Virginia colleges and universities.

"When people come into my classroom or people work with me on a team, I want to see how I can access what intellectually turns them on," Dunleavy enthusiastically stated. "One of my great objectives is to get people excited about learning, get people excited about limitless potential."

Since his days of living in a subsistence farming village and teaching English as a second language as a Peace Corps volunteer in central Africa and teaching in Taiwan, Dunleavy has had a vision for creating and utilizing technology as a learning tool for children.

"As I went through those experiences I realized what a profound impact technology could have on what you could provide your students," he recalled. "From something as simple as pencils and books and blackboards in Cameroon, I realized that technological tools could radically transform what you could do in the classroom."

The result was the Mobile Innovation Learning Lab (MILL), formerly called the Games, Animation, Modeling and Simulation (GAMeS) Lab, a multidisciplinary effort by Dunleavy, RU students and others to "design interactive mobile games and study the impact of the products on student engagement and learning," Dunleavy explained.

Funding from the National Science Foundation and the Virginia Department of Education allowed the MILL to design and implement Standards of Learning (SOL) aligned games for participating schools in rural, southwestern Virginia. The lab also collaborates with participating local school teachers to determine how best to integrate the MILL-produced games within the existing curricula.

Out of the MILL was born another Dunleavy brainchild, the iLearn Project, which delivered approximately $1 million worth of iPod Touch devices, laptops, software and training to the Radford City and Pulaski County school districts.

"Matt quickly recognized the correlation between technology integration and student achievement in high-need classrooms," said an appreciative Tom Brewster '89, superintendent for Pulaski County Public Schools. "Matt is a forward thinker, an entrepreneur and most of all he is a compassionate advocate for improving the opportunities for rural students through technology integration in the classroom."

In collaboration with New River Community College, Dunleavy and his team also developed 20 Virginia SOL-aligned apps, which quickly soared in popularity and have been downloaded more than 200,000 times in ten countries.

Many of those apps, Dunleavy said, target challenging science, technology, engineering and technology (STEM) subjects, and three received awards from the 2009 and 2010 Virginia Mobile Learning Apps Development Challenge.

Matt Dunleavy lecturing in class

Shortly after arriving at RU, Dunleavy created the Mobile Innovation Learning Lab, formerly called GAMeS Lab, to "design interactive mobile games and study the impact of the products on student engagement and learning."

Within the MILL, Dunleavy and his development team of computer science students, Daniel Burgess '10 and David Payne '10, created, with the help of a National Science Foundation grant, augmented reality curricula within the Radford Outdoor Augmented Reality (ROAR) project. However, in order to accomplish their goals, the team was forced to develop its own customized augmented reality software since no software of its kind existed. The development led to a historic first patent application for Radford University in 2010 and commercial spin-off in 2011.

Burgess was one of the students involved in the software project. He credits Dunleavy's drive and ability to get the most out of his students for the successes of the project and their future endeavors.

"His creative vision and ambitious goals set the bar high in terms of what was hoped to be achieved, but his strong leadership, work ethic and determination have challenged and grown everyone that has been involved in the GAMeS Lab, including myself, to succeed and exceed those expectations," said Burgess, who along with fellow RU alumnus Payne, created MoGo Mobile, a GAMeS Lab spin-off company that commercializes the patented augmented reality software.

dunleavy and a student

Dunleavy relishes the opportunity to show students their "limitless potential."

Dunleavy relishes those moments when he finds students, such as Burgess and Payne, and instills in them a belief that they can develop cutting-edge, innovative software and apps at Radford University.

"When I see a young undergraduate come into the MILL who is talented but doesn't necessarily believe they can do world-class work, and I can provide them the resources and leadership to where they are exceeding not only my expectations but their own expectations, to me that's a huge success," said Dunleavy in his unique inspirational style that makes you to want to give him a fist bump. "Not only are they able to leave the MILL with competitive skills that will get them jobs, but more importantly, they leave here with the knowledge they can pretty much do what they want if they set strong objectives and aggressively move toward them."

Aggression, for Dunleavy, is a key word when it comes to motivating students toward reaching their goals and expectations.

"I'm a huge proponent of aggression, and I mean that in a positive way," he explained. "If you set the tone of a high tempo in a class or lab, there are going to be high expectations. I expect high-quality out of students and I get high quality work."

Accompanying the aggression is mountains of enthusiasm for his work and for educating students to be scholar-citizens who promote social and economic change in their communities.

"Our role as a university is to provide our students with tools, resources and leadership to go out and make an impact on their own to where they no longer need us," Dunleavy said. "They're not only changing their own lives, but they are changing the lives of their neighbors. To me, that's what a scholar-citizen is all about."

Burgess, who continues to work with Dunleavy, is a witness to his former professor's unique leadership qualities and his commitment to the betterment of his students and the world in which they live.

"Matt is one of those rare individuals who challenges, inspires and leads the people around him to not only do better, but to be better," Burgess said. "Ever since I have known Matt, he has always inspired me to do better work, but his approach is much more holistic than that. He not only inspires a strong work ethic, but he also challenges each individual to become a better person, treating each person uniquely, according to their strengths and weaknesses. His focus is on accomplishing great things together through creative, collaborative work, but he also emphasizes the importance of the health and growth of each individual."

Radford University is a comprehensive public university of more than 9,900 students. RU serves the Commonwealth of Virginia and the nation through a wide range of academic, cultural, human service, and research programs. Well known for its strong faculty/student bonds, innovative use of technology in the learning environment and vibrant student life on a beautiful 191-acre American classical campus, Radford University offers students many opportunities to get involved and succeed in and out of the classroom. The university offers 69 degree programs at the undergraduate level, and 21 master's programs and three doctoral programs at the graduate level. A Division I member of the NCAA and Big South Athletic Conference, Radford participates in 19 varsity sports—11 for women and eight for men. Since 2005, the university has secured approval and funding for nearly $300 million in capital projects, including both new construction and renovation.

Learn more about Radford University at www.radford.edu.

Oct 8, 2013
Chad Osborne
(540) 831-7769