Susan Imel, PhD
Hall of Fame Class of 2009
Susan Imel, PhD, has been a major contributor to the literature base for the field of adult and continuing education throughout her career. She has edited the distinguished journal, New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, and contributed many chapters to edited books, including two Handbooks of Adult and Continuing Education and three international encyclopedias. In addition, for 16 years, Imel served as the director of the ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career, and Vocational Education and she has been an adjunct faculty member at four universities.
She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in social studies from Indiana University in 1965, a master’s degree in library science from the University of Michigan in 1969 and a doctorate in adult and continuing education in 1976, also from the University of Michigan.
Imel’s greatest contribution to adult education was her leadership in developing a publications program at the ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career, and Vocational Education that focused on translating research and theory into useable formats for practitioners. After the ERIC Digest program revolutionized user services for the Clearinghouse, she created two additional types of “Digest-like” products, Myths and Realities and Practice Application Briefs that were produced by the Clearinghouse beginning in 1988 and continuing through 2003.
She also assisted in the redesign of the annotated bibliographies produced by the Clearinghouse that were renamed Trends and Issues Alerts; the redesign included providing a comprehensive overview of a topic that preceded a list of annotated resources.
Between 1998 and 2003, the Clearinghouse produced and disseminated 162 of these publications, 51 of which were developed by Imel. Beginning in 1982 through 2003, the Clearinghouse also produced 253 ERIC Digests, 43 of which were developed by Imel. All of these products were used extensively by practitioners and policymakers and frequent requests were received for multiple copies to be distributed in workshops. During 1996 and 1997, several of her products on adult learning were translated into Russian for use in Kyrgyzstan.
During her 23-year tenure at the ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career, and Vocational Education, Imel emphasized the development and dissemination of short, synthesis products including Digests, Trends and Issues Alerts, Practice Application Briefs, and Myths and Realities. In selecting topics for these series, she sought a balance between foundational topics (such as adult learning) and emerging topics (such as gender issues related to adult learning).
In Ohio, she was known for her collaborative working style that enabled her to work successfully with both practitioners and policymakers in implementing statewide projects. Imel also served in a variety of leadership positions for both the American Association for Adult and Continuing Education (AAACE) and the Commission of Professors of Adult Education (CPAE).
In 1996, Imel was appointed editor-in-chief of New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education published by Jossey-Bass and served as sole editor until 2003 when she became co-editor-in-chief.
During her long career, Imel worked with hundreds of graduate students at four institutions in Ohio, Missouri, Alaska, and North Carolina. Most of this work has been in teaching but, at the Ohio State University, she served on a number of program and dissertation committees. The contact with graduate students allowed her to provide students with a broad overview of the field as well as guide them through the maze of the literature and contributors. In addition, her synthesis of scholarship and practitioner efforts has enhanced both graduate research and practitioner effective practices.
While at OSU, she served as the principal investigator for a number of projects, one of which provided leadership for the development of the statewide evaluation system for adult literacy and basic education in Ohio. In 2007 she began an independent research project to uncover the history of early women contributors to the field of adult education.