University of New Mexico interim Provost Richard Wood has named College of Education (COE) Associate Dean Deborah Rifenbary as interim dean of the College effective July 1, 2019. The leadership change was prompted by the departure of Hector Ochoa, who recently accepted a position as provost at San Diego State University.

“I am enormously pleased to appoint Dr. Deb Rifenbary to lead the UNM College of Education in the year ahead," said Interim Provost Richard Wood. "She has extensive experience in the complex educational field and the trust of her colleagues, and will work with them effectively to lay the groundwork for the future of the College.”

As a longtime Lobo, Rifenbary first served as an assistant professor in the Counselor Education Program in 1990. She was named associate professor in 1996 and eventually department chair in 2004. Most recently Rifenbary has been in the role of Associate Dean for Academic Affairs & Faculty Development.  

“It is truly an honor to serve as interim dean for the College of Education,” said Rifenbary. “I would like to acknowledge Interim Provost Richard Wood for his support and belief in my leadership ability. My focus has always been to create a collegial environment that promotes student success and faculty development. I want to continue the professional relationships the College currently has and enhance collaboration with the New Mexico Legislature, Public Education Department, surrounding school districts and tribal communities.”

Promoting excellence in education and a sense of community is a top priority for Rifenbary. 

“As a College comprised of outstanding faculty and staff, we are fortunate to serve a community that is rich in diversity, culture, history and opportunity,” she said. “We need to embrace our strengths while acknowledging the challenges we face as educators, practitioners, scholars and scientists in order to provide a quality education for those individuals who rely on our professional experience and expertise.”

Rifenbary has a bachelor's degree in English from Rosemont College, a Master’s in the Art of Teaching (MAT) in English from Fairleigh-Dickinson University, a Master of Education degree in Counseling and Human Development from Vanderbilt University and a Doctor of Education degree in counseling from the University of Virginia. She is also a licensed professional counselor (LPCC) in the state of New Mexico.

As a career educator, Rifenbary was a school counselor and taught English in secondary rural, urban and international school settings. Currently, she also serves as the coordinator of the Student Teachers in Austria Reach Success (STARS) program, a student teacher exchange between the College of Education and the Teachers College at the University of Vienna. 

Sponsored by the Teachers College, Rifenbary continues to be invited-faculty in the Austrian Summer Academy for English teachers throughout Austria.