Today@Sam Article

Julie Combs Among 2023 Distinguished Professor Honorees

Oct. 11, 2023
SHSU Media Contact: Campbell Atkins

Julie Combs and President Alisa White

It was a bittersweet year for Julie Combs, one of three 2023 Sam Houston State University Distinguished Professors. The professor of educational leadership lost her beloved husband after a battle with pancreatic cancer in May before receiving the distinction over the summer.

“I was in such a fog that I don’t really remember the time and place I heard,” Combs said of the award. “I just remember being so excited, but a little bit sad, too, that Keith wouldn’t be there. He would have been so proud of me and said something like he knew it all along.”

There was certainly much to praise when it came to Combs and her resume in and out of the classroom. Since joining SHSU’s staff in 2005, she has compiled a plethora of awards and an impressive research and service record.

“I had a couple of job offers, but I specifically chose Sam Houston for the people, its resources and overall energy,” Combs said. “I like to say Sam Houston raised me. I came in as an assistant professor and rose through the ranks of tenure. I learned, I was mentored, I learned how to research and I taught other students how to do all that.”

Combs has worked as a public school principal, elementary and middle school teacher and was a founding principal at the National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence & Exemplary rated campus. She spent stints at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas as well as Texas A&M University-Commerce before joining SHSU’s College of Education. She spent two years as acting chair of the department and 10 years as director of its doctoral program in educational leadership.

“Throughout all that, the theme has been helping other people, whether it’s through mentorship or teaching my students how to do things they don’t think they can do,” Combs said. “I’ve spent most of my time here working with the doctoral program. Keeping that program vibrant was probably one of my biggest contributions.”

Combs oversaw the doctoral program from 2012-22 and it remains one of the few face-to-face programs of its kind in Texas, as the majority of others have gone online. She has also published 53 peer-reviewed research articles, six books, 42 practitioner-focused publications, supervised 33 dissertations and provided over 35 schools with consulting services.

“Hands down, she is one of the greatest professors I have taken throughout my entire academic career. She is intentional in her curriculum and instruction,” said one of Comb’s former doctoral students. “Her content knowledge is superb, and she teaches it in a way that is very easy to understand. She is very approachable and highly responsive to communication outside of the classroom.”

Among her many other distinctions include SHSU College of Education’s Teaching Excellence Award (2018), Research Excellence Award (2017) and the Texas Council of Professors of Educational Administration’s (TCPEA) Researcher of the Year Award (2017).

“One thing I say makes for a happy life is getting meaning from what you do,” Combs said. “Teaching and working with others is definitely what I get meaning from. Having incredible mentors was such a highlight of my early years at Sam Houston and now being able to give that back to new faculty or graduate students is really my mission at this point in my career.”

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