Graduate Spotlight: Tony Mann

image for Tony Mann

Learn more about Tony Mann, a graduate of COE's Doctor of Education (DEd) in Educational Leadership program, through our Graduate Spotlight series

“The UO provided me with a gold-standard doctoral program, and my experiences with Alonzo and Tanner-Smith will forever influence my work as an educational leader.” – Tony Mann

Meet Tony Mann (he/him/his) Tony is graduating from the Educational Leadership program with his Doctorate in Education (DEd).

Tony has had an extensive career as an educator, serving as a leader in schools across Oregon. Throughout his doctoral studies, he concurrently served as the superintendent of Molalla River School District, guiding them through the challenges of the pandemic with a steadfast commitment to fostering unity rather than sowing division.

Tony also serves as the co-Founder and chair of the Oregon Recovery High School Initiative and is the co-founder of Harmony, Oregon’s first recovery high school. This is where he puts his research to practice, finding ways to implement support systems through education for students struggling with addiction. He hopes to continue this work post-graduation, influencing student well-being across the state of Oregon and even nationally.

Mann expresses gratitude for his time at the UO, acknowledging the invaluable mentorship received from program Co-Director Julie Alonzo, PhD, and Thomson Professor Emily Tanner-Smith, PhD.

How did your experience as a superintendent during the pandemic develop your leadership skills?

The experience of leading a school district community through the pandemic reinforced one important idea that especially holds true today with the division around us. Specifically, we are better together when we move toward common aspirational goals, and when we do, it is critical we look for common ground, not places where we can divide.

What impact do you hope to make with your research on helping students with substance use disorder maintain attendance in Recovery High Schools? 

My research findings provide practitioners in Recovery High Schools, policymakers, and researchers with evidence of specific variables supporting sustained student attendance. The closing paragraphs of my dissertation speak to my hopes:

In addition to answering key research questions, the study provides generalizable conclusions regarding relational recovery capital and novel variables linked with sustained student enrollment. These include, most of all, the influence of positive peer culture, strong recovery-supportive adult relationships, and student ongoing engagement in mental health care services. 

Ultimately, for every adolescent who has persevered and found recovery from substance use disorder and the seemingly hopeless state that accompanies it, and for every parent who has lived through the terror such a condition brings to a family, and for those who have lost a child due to substance use disorder: It is my greatest hope there comes a time when no parent must ever experience such tragedy, and every adolescent who wants recovery is supported in their journey, discovering for themselves that something different is possible.

What are your plans following graduation?

I will continue serving as Molalla River School District Superintendent as I find additional ways to influence student well-being across the state of Oregon and even nationally through my work on adolescent recovery from substance use disorder.

What made your experience at UO special?

image of Tony Mann and family

Above all, my university advisor and other mentors made my experience at UO exceptional. Having been admitted to both the University of Oregon and Vanderbilt, making an enrollment decision was difficult. In my early meetings with Julie Alonzo, PhD, and Emily Tanner-Smith, PhD, my decision became very clear and I enrolled at UO. From their 1:1 mentorship to their high standards. . . from their enthusiasm for my research to their support as an occasional shoulder to cry on, Julie and Emily both provided the kind of academic and professional support one should expect from a top-tier university. The UO provided me with a gold-standard doctoral program, and my experiences with Dr. Alonzo and Dr. Tanner-Smith will forever influence my work as an educational leader.

What advice would you give to other mid-career graduate students?

Spend time getting clear about your mission in life. What lights up your soul? What fuels your professional heartbeat? Follow those threads. . . the things that inspire you emotionally. It is in those moments of clarity about your calling in life that you will discover your purpose at UO.