Barker named executive director of PLACE

Lisa Barker is the new executive director of the School of Education’s Office of Professional Learning and Community Education (PLACE), Dean Diana Hess announced.

“I am thrilled that Lisa will lead PLACE,” says Hess. “She is an innovative leader with deep expertise and the ability to ensure that the work of faculty and staff in the School has a real impact on many communities — near and far.”

Lisa Barker

PLACE represents the Wisconsin Idea in action as it helps ensure that the knowledge fostered within the School of Education reaches beyond the boundaries of campus to have a local, state, national, and global impact. Using the expertise of faculty, staff, and community stakeholders, PLACE supports and develops transformational professional and community learning programs for a diverse audience of participants across the arts, health, and education fields.  Both credit and non-credit offerings allow individuals to develop skills while building community among like-minded colleagues.

In her role leading the office, Barker is responsible for providing direction for the administrative operations and advancing the program goals and objectives of PLACE. Barker also becomes part of the School of Education’s leadership team as a member of Senior Staff.

“I am thrilled by this opportunity to envision the future of PLACE,” says Barker. “I am inspired by the talent of the PLACE team, and by the School of Education’s interdisciplinarity and intentional centering of equity, diversity, and inclusion. We are excited to continue building bold, beautiful programs that bridge faculty and staff ideas with community needs in education, health, and the arts.”

Barker is no stranger to PLACE, having served as the office’s education director since April of 2020. In this role, she has worked on translating educational research into professional and community learning opportunities.

Barker earned a Ph.D. from Stanford University in curriculum and teacher education, and is interested in how the principles and practices of improvisational theatre can inform the work of educators.

Prior to arriving at UW–Madison, she taught English education at Stanford, the State University of New York at New Paltz, and Towson University. She also served as director of education for Adventure Stage Chicago and was manager of the City University of New York’s Creative Arts Team’s Paul A. Kaplan Center for Educational Drama, where she helped launch the first master’s degree in applied theatre in the United States.

Barker started her career in education as an English, reading, and drama teacher at James Lick High School in San Jose, California.