Celebrating Dean’s Impactful Tenure

We Bid Farewell to Dr. Lisa Norton, Dean of the College of Education and Health Sciences, Whose Tenure was Distinguished by Inclusive Leadership and a Commitment to Social Justice.

July 02, 2024
Dr. Lisa Norton Flexes her right arm to flex her bicep underneath a poster of Rosie the riveter in a similar pose with a speech bubble that says, “We can do it!”

After eight years leading the College of Education and Health Sciences (CEHS) as Dean, Dr. Lisa Norton is moving to the East Coast to be closer to family and take the role of Dean at the College of Health Sciences and Education at Misericordia University, a Catholic nonprofit institution in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

“One of the things I'm very proud of is the leadership team that we've developed in CEHS that's really strong and provides a type of work family atmosphere, where people feel valued,” says Norton. “Founding Dean Dr. Jim O'Connor started this, so we know people’s names, their kid’s names, and when someone needs support. We’re a very tight-knit group considering that we are five different units doing different kinds of things on a day-to-day basis.”

Beginning her journey at Touro University California (TUC) in 2016 as the inaugural Associate Dean, Norton was promoted to interim Dean, when O’Connor stepped into a new role as Director of the Center for Innovative Learning and Teaching. She was promoted to permanent Dean a year later after a national search ensued.

“She was one of eight candidates sent to me by the search committee, and I was immediately impressed with her resume,” says O’Connor. “The two things that impressed me were the fact that she had worked a lot with recruitment and retention of students at the University of Texas at San Antonio, and she had also been an Assistant Dean and Director of the Student Success Center at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. She's done a great job as the Dean, and she's more than filled my shoes, and continued with the mission that I had hoped for with CEHS.”

Transformative Leadership in Education and Health Sciences

Norton says that her management approach is grounded in inclusivity, ensuring that faculty, staff, and students feel empowered to contribute their voices to decision-making processes.

During her time at Touro, Norton's leadership emphasized support, appreciation and collaboration. Norton fostered a cohesive environment across CEHS’s diverse units, including Education, Nursing, Physician Assistant, Public Health, and the new Los Angeles Physician Assistant program.

“What makes [Norton] very distinct among the different leaders that I worked with is not only her technical ability, but her way of approaching others, and that she treats each and every one as a whole person,” says Dr. Farid Khalafalla, CEHS Associate Dean and Chief Academic Integrity Officer. “She is very focused on developing her employees and is a strong believer in investing in the human asset, doing everything she can to empower her team.”

Dr. Prabjot “Jodie” Sandhu, Assistant Dean and Director of TUC’s School of Nursing, says that Norton demonstrates that leaders can be compassionate, employees should be respected, and that “together is the best way forward, for us, for our people, and our communities.”

Community Engagement and Social Justice Advocacy

Under Norton's guidance, CEHS continued to uphold its mission of social justice and community engagement, values that resonate deeply with her, by working directly with organizations serving Vallejo and Solano County.

“I will miss my Vallejo community,” says Norton. “One thing I love about Vallejo is the large number of organizations and people that are vested to community health and improvement. It’s like nowhere else.”

One organization that Norton worked with as a board member was Fighting Back Partnership, dedicated to preventing and ending poverty and its effects in Vallejo and Solano County. Dr. Melvinia Turner King, Executive Director of Fighting Back Partnership, says Norton inspired and motivated colleagues at leadership training. Norton also worked closely with the Vallejo Education & Business Alliance (VEBA); a group dedicated to expanding educational opportunities to Vallejo residents.

"In her tenure at Touro University, Dr. Norton has poured herself into the community, and has been a reliable and stalwart leader for community improvement and social justice,” says William Spalding, recently retired Vallejo City Unified School District Superintendent and current chair of the VEBA. “She is a devoted friend to our district and to the students and families of this community. I am proud to call her my friend and will miss her greatly.”

Moving Forward: Norton's New Role

The move for Norton to Misericordia University represents a natural progression in her career, where she will oversee a diverse set of programs that includes health sciences, physical therapy, occupational therapy, physician assistant studies, nursing, teacher education, social work, and speech pathology. The role will also include diversifying the campus which is a large focus of her research, teaching and service work. Norton will be working with the Vice President of Mission Integration and Institutional Diversity to obtain Hispanic-serving status. Norton says that, surprisingly, Northeastern Pennsylvania is the largest Latinx community in the state, even bigger than Philadelphia.

But after eight years of leading CEHS, Norton’s leaving is bittersweet says Dr. Tami Hendriksz, the Dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine and the Interim Chief Academic Officer of TUC.

“Dr. Norton has been an integral part of both our campus and the broader Vallejo community, dedicating her time and expertise to numerous initiatives that have greatly enriched our institution and its surroundings,” says Hendriksz. “Her leadership and commitment will be deeply missed, and we wish her all the best in her future endeavors.”