What’s this new role mean to you?
It means I have the opportunity and privilege to work with diverse and talented faculty and staff as they continuously strive to provide quality educational programs, conduct leading research and scholarships and — in line with our original university mission — make a direct impact on the communities we serve, the region and the world. What I hope to be doing is creating the environment and connections to facilitate this work.
What led up to your work at ETSU?
I set out to be a school counselor and did my graduate work at Western Carolina University. I worked as a school counselor at both the elementary and middle school levels before I decided to pursue my Ph.D. in counselor education so that I could teach people who wanted to be professional counselors. Honestly, my wonderful experiences as a school counselor, focusing on whole child development, working with not only students but also faculty, administration and parents and in an educational system I think has been the best preparation for my roles in higher education.
I “discovered” ETSU when I was an assistant professor of counseling at Syracuse University. I was visiting a friend in Asheville in the fall of 2005, and she was serving as a field site supervisor for a student in ETSU’s school counseling program. Although I had lived and worked as a school counselor in the Asheville area for several years, I truthfully didn’t know about ETSU until I visited my friend about six years after I left the area. I heard great things about the program, and the next spring, I happened to check the website of their counseling program and found that they had a job opening. I appreciated the feeling of community when I interviewed and that programs did not seem to be so isolated. There was a sense of collaboration that I noticed, and that really appealed to me. Not to mention, the beauty of this region. I have lived in a lot of different places, and I truly feel at home in Johnson City.
What do you think makes the campus and college unique?
What strikes me about ETSU, in a word, is service. I mean this in a somewhat traditional sense — helping someone, connection, making things better. I felt and witnessed this from the beginning of my time here, and it has only been reinforced since I took this position as interim dean. It can be as simple as the way someone that I call with a question patiently works with me, to watching a staff member reach out to another offering assistance, to faculty members already stretched with multiple demands saying “yes” to a new committee because they are passionate about the work, to someone developing a program that not only improves reading ability in children but also serves animals in a shelter ... I could go on.
I cannot tell you how many people simply say, “If there is anything I can do just let me know.” And when I do let them know — time and time again — they do. While I think there are helpful, service-minded people and advocates in many places, it emanates here, and that is unique.
What have been some notable changes at ETSU and Clemmer?
What I appreciate about the history of ETSU is the vision of state leaders back in the early 1900s, including our founding president, Dr. Sidney Gilbreath, who saw the potential of what I find to be two key areas — the potential of education to better the lives of people in the region and the potential of this region of the state. At our core, Clemmer College is grounded in the education of teachers but also of other professionals, including those focused on mental and physical health and the next generation of educational and community leaders. We continue the tradition of an educational and developmental mindset that focuses on the whole person — the development of the mind, body and personal and social wellness. We do this from both a focus on individual development but also on creating and leading healthy and functional systems including families, schools, non-profit and for-profit organizations. The roots of all of our current departments were present in subjects taught from the beginning and when we were first organized as an official School of Education in 1955. We have continued to evolve and specialize such that we have leading programs in exercise science, sport and leisure management, educational leadership, counseling and human services in addition to Pre-K to grade 12 teacher licensure preparation programs in early childhood, elementary, secondary, reading, library science, physical education, etc.
In my time at ETSU, I had the honor of serving as the first chair of the Department of Counseling and Human Services. I saw the creation of both the bachelor’s and master’s of science degrees in human services. The college also added the Ph.D. in both early childhood education and sport physiology and sports performance. These doctoral degrees joined our Ed.D program in educational leadership.
What do you think are the biggest challenges the college faces, and how do you think they should be tackled?
I think the biggest opportunities that we have are to tell our stories and listen to the stories of others. We have outstanding, creative and scholarly programs with unique opportunities, and we need people to know this so that they can benefit from all we have to offer. I also see this as a path forward in recognizing, honoring and affirming our diversity and coming together to look at things from multiple perspectives in order to address real needs and mitigate future problems. I think we do this through curiosity, listening, study and collaboration.