Skip to Main Content

Susan Syverud, PhD - Associate Professor, Exceptional Education

Dr. Susan M. Syverud is an associate professor in the Department of Exceptional, Deaf and Interpreter Education in the College of Education and Human Services at the University of North Florida. She served 12 years as Professor in Residence at the Urban Professional Development School Woodland Acres Elementary, Jacksonville, Florida and is currently developing an International Professional Development School in Belmopan, Belize. She primarily teaches literacy methods for exceptional learners courses where her students tutor struggling readers under her guidance and supervision. Her research interests include preventing reading failures, remediating poor academic achievement of struggling learners, preparing highly qualified educators within a professional development school model, and developing university-school partnerships. 


In 2011, the Department of Exceptional, Deaf, and Interpreter Education became a designated “Community-Based Transformational Learning Engaged Department.” At this time, Dr. Syverud  was already serving as a Professor in Residence at UNF Urban Professional Development School Woodland Acres Elementary where she prepared teacher candidates to tutor young struggling readers, provided professional development and coaching as needed, and served on various leadership teams. Although Dr. Syverud was collecting and analyzing data weekly from my UNF students to determine if the children were making learning gains and to guide her UNF students if the children were not, as a Community Scholar, she realized that she was not collecting data that investigated the impact that tutoring young struggling readers at an Title I urban elementary school where almost the entire population are children of poverty and an increasing amount of English Language Learners had on her UNF students. Thus, she had her UNF students write reflection papers that addressed their commitment to citizenship or, more specifically, their commitment to equity and social justice for students and families from diverse cultures and communities. The overall feedback from these reflections reinforced the rationale for UNF’s commitment to urban education. 


Most recently, Dr. Syverud has taken her commitment to equity and social justice via university-school partnerships abroad to Belize. Along with several of her colleagues, she received a $90,000 grant to develop an International Professional Development School (IPDS) in Belmopan, Belize. In addition to strengthening university-school partnerships in Belize and improving literacy achievement and special education services, the IPDS has provided a perfect venue to immerse UNF faculty and students’ in a different culture by extending UNF faculty and students’ commitment to community-based learning in Belize. The IPDS that was selected in Belmopan, Belize is primarily a Mayan school. The needs of the children mirror many of the children’s needs in our urban schools in Jacksonville, Florida. The informal reflections that have been collected reinforce the transformational power of this partnership that upholds a global commitment to equity and social justice. 

As a Community Scholar this past year, Dr. Syverud co-authored a book chapter that discusses her local community-based work entitled “A Stone of Hope: Preparing Masterful Readers and Teachers in an Urban Professional Development School.” (Syverud, Delane, & Raiser, in press). She also shared her community-based university-school partnership work in five scholarly presentations. In regards to her most recent international work, Dr. Syverud’s was invited to participate on a panel discussion on Global Citizenship and contributed to two scholarly presentations describing the development of the UNF International Professional Development School in Belize.  


In November 2017, the Florida Campus Compact awarded second place to the University of North Florida with Duval County Public Schools Urban Professional Development Program. Dr. Syverud, along with numerous of her university-school partners, was instrumental in contributing to the success of attaining this award.  

Dr. Syverud earned her Ph.D. and M.S. in Special Education from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She earned a B.S. in Economics from the same institution.