Dr. Craig Schilling, Professor of Educational Leadership, College of Education, Concordia University Chicago, IL

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Craig Schilling, Professor of Educational Leadership

What programs do you teach at Concordia University Chicago? What drew you to this field of study? What keeps you excited about it?

I teach finance, law, human resources, and school business management courses in the M.A. Principal/Superintendent Preparation and Chief School Business Official programs.

Most people would not include the terms “excitement” and “finance” in the same sentence. Add the term equity, however, and it gets their attention. The fields of school finance, law, and human resources are all about equity and adequacy now, especially in a post-COVID-19 pandemic environment. Learning to be both efficient and effective is a prerequisite to good administration.

Being able to analyze financial data to improve student performance is critical. In the area of school business management, we’ve seen the role of the business manager evolve from an accountant to that of an educator who is actively engaged in decisions affecting students every day.

How will your program better prepare/equip educators for the current climate they are facing? 

One of the struggles in education has always been to define what is adequate and fair. Is it money, opportunity, or performance? All the school law, finance, and human resource courses have been rewritten in the past year to address these concepts. Assignments have been adjusted to promote critical thinking: what really matters? What variables can school administrators manipulate to achieve higher student performance and equity? How can we identify the best teachers and administrators? My colleagues in our department routinely challenge each other regarding these important questions. This Socratic dialogue is one of the strengths of our department.

What attracted you to teach at Concordia University Chicago? What sets them apart? 

I was fortunate to receive a call from Concordia University Chicago about a position they had been trying to fill in school law and finance. At the time, they were also looking for someone that was tech-savvy and could write and set up online classes. They were also in the process of starting a program in school business management; it was the perfect job for me.

The other draw was the people. Everyone had practical experience, and it was apparent there was a very collegial and collaborative environment. I was also impressed that program leaders and instructors had the flexibility and discretion to serve students in the best manner possible: the mantra of “go forth and do good.”

What is your professional background as an educator? 

I graduated Suma Cum Laude from the University of Maryland with a B.S. in psychology and sociology, received an M.Ed. in Human Services from Boston University, and earned a Certificate of Advanced Study in School Business Management and doctorate in Educational Leadership from Northern Illinois University concentrating in school law.

I served in the military for five years, distinguishing myself as the Soldier of the Year in the United States Communication Command – Europe. I subsequently worked as a Systems Analyst with Mobil Oil Corporation and began my career in school business management in 1980.

Before accepting a position at Concordia University Chicago, I have held positions with the Bellwood Elementary, Marquardt Elementary, Rich Township High Schools, and Glenbrook High Schools. I taught school business management and education leadership courses in law and finance for Northern Illinois University from 1989 to 2009.

Tell us a little about yourself. Why did you become interested in education?  

I grew up in education: my dad started as a high school basketball coach in Indiana, later becoming a principal and superintendent; my mom was an elementary school teacher; and my uncle was President of North Central College. I started in education when I was 12, working as a groundskeeper for two elementary schools. After military service and working in private industry for a few years, it seemed like a natural move to become an educator.

I have worked 40 years in K-12 and 32 years in higher education. I have served as the President of the Illinois Association of School Business Officials and on the Board of Directors of the Association of School Business Officials International. Additionally, I have received numerous awards for my work in education including the ASBOI Eagle Service Award for Contributions to the Profession, National Education Finance Academy Distinguished Fellow for exemplary research and practice in elementary, secondary, and higher education, and R. E. Everett Distinguished Service Award from IASBO.

What would you tell prospective students considering your program about yourself? What’s something that students and colleagues should know about you?

I have always been labeled an “out of the box” thinker. Students can expect to be challenged to think about things differently. I can appreciate the challenges posed in working in all school districts because I grew up in small rural communities in Indiana and I have worked in both suburban elementary and high school districts in Illinois. I also have a global and national perspective due to my experiences in four countries and many states through my work over the years. I have co-authored five of the textbooks in the program, and I like to stay current and collaborate with staff in other states.

Last but not least, I judge my success by the success of those I have taught or mentored. For example, in the school business management program, I offer to review and edit each graduate’s resume.

What advice do you have for students interested in pursuing their Educational Leadership degree? How can people stand out in this field? 

I wrote an article several years ago about reaching your potential. I addressed what I considered some important parameters for goal setting; I believe following those parameters in a student’s professional life will help them stand out.

Those parameters included:

  • Teaching and mentoring
  • Achieving through others
  • The gift of time
  • Committing to try new things
  • Taking care of yourself
  • Being true to your vision
  • Adding to your networks
  • Servant leadership

One year, for example, I observed about 75 teachers in the district I worked. No Assistant Superintendent for Fiscal Affairs had ever taken that kind of interest in what teachers did in the classroom. After each class, I spent a minute or two asking them if they had what they needed to get their job done. I also followed that up with a “thank you” note in which I touched upon one or two things that I observed they were doing great. That one goal of visiting classrooms changed my role in the district from business manager to educator.

Is there anything else you would like to share? 

Each of my children have a degree from Concordia University Chicago: two undergraduate, one M.B.A., and one Ph.D. My mother-in-law graduated from Concordia University Nebraska and taught at Grace Lutheran School, and my wife’s grandfather was a life-long Lutheran school teacher and organist in Milwaukee.