Shirley Lefever was born in Burns, Kansas where her family operated a small dairy farm. She attended Burns Elementary School and later moved to El Dorado, Kansas where she graduated from El Dorado High School. Prior to her career in higher education, she was a classroom teacher, teaching in multi-grade classrooms. Her passion for developing students’ abilities led her to pursue her graduate degrees.

Lefever received her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from Kansas State University in 1991. Her dissertation focused on factors impacting literacy acquisition and reading comprehension. Her master’s and bachelor’s degrees are also from Kansas State University in Curriculum and Instruction and Elementary Education respectively.

Lefever’s initial experiences in higher education began with 14 years at the University of Arkansas where she was awarded the Outstanding Teaching award for the College of Education and Health Professions in 1996. As a faculty member, she helped develop the Master of Arts in Teaching degree program, characterized as a Professional Development School design, which was awarded the Distinguished Program in Teacher Education by the Association of Teacher Educators in 2001. In addition to teaching in the program, she also served as a university liaison to one of the Professional Development Schools. During that time, she also served as the Graduate Coordinator for the Department of Curriculum and Instruction and was responsible for program development and implementation as well as graduate student supervision and training.

In 2005, Lefever continued to build on her deep commitment to strong clinical practice models of teacher preparation when she began in her role as Department Chair for Curriculum and Instruction at Wichita State University. While in that role, she collaborated with college faculty and school district leaders to reshape the WSU Professional Development School teacher preparation model to an urban serving model. This program was recognized by the Council of Great City Schools as the recipient of the Shirley S. Schwartz Urban Impact award as well as the Association of Teacher Educators, Distinguished Program in Teacher Education award.

She became the Associate Dean for the College of Education with responsibility for undergraduate programs in 2008 and moved to the Sr. Associate Dean position in 2012 where she also acted as the Assessment Coordinator. In 2013 she was appointed as Interim Dean for the College of Education (Now College of Applied Studies) and a year later became acting Dean.

She was appointed Interim Executive Vice President and Provost in the fall of 2020 before being selected as as full EVP and Provost in April 2022. As a First Generation College student, Lefever is deeply committed to making higher education both accessible and affordable to all students through a variety of strategies including paid applied learning opportunities.

Throughout her career, Lefever has been active in professional organizations and has served on numerous state and national task forces, commissions and committees. In 2015 she was elected President of the national Association of Teacher Educators and served two terms. Among her appointments include serving on the Kansas State Department of Education Blue Ribbon Panel committee, the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education’s Clinical Practice Commission and a Review Team member for the national Council for the Accreditation for Educator Providers. She has presented and published on a range of topics including Professional Development Schools, early literacy and strategies to promote the literacy development of English Language Learners and struggling readers.