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Colleen Walters, DNP, is one of two Provost Fellows for the coming year.

Next class of Provost Faculty Fellows ready to expand their reach

“As a faculty member, we hear about these big picture, strategic priorities, so I’m hoping this opportunity will give me a peek behind the curtain at how those initiatives are decided and how the plan to pursue them is developed.”

Those were the initial thoughts from Laurence Miller, PhD, on being selected to the next class of the Provost Faculty Fellows program alongside Colleen Walters, DNP.

Having the opportunity to be a part of the program created three years ago by Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Neil J. MacKinnon, PhD, is more than getting a peek behind the proverbial curtain in the City of Oz. MacKinnon wants it to be a chance for faculty to learn new skills in administration while having a hand in creating a lasting impact on the faculty, staff, and especially the students at Augusta University.

“The fact that we are welcoming our third class probably puts more pressure on them because the first two classes were so remarkable. All four fellows have contributed in very meaningful ways to the university community, led projects that have impacted students, faculty and staff,” MacKinnon said.

man teaching in classroom
Laurence Miller, PhD [Michael Holahan/Augusta University]

Miller and Walters join the first class of Vishal Arora, MD, and Amy Abdulovic-Cui, PhD, and the second class of Vahé Heboyan, PhD, and Candis Bond, PhD.

Miller and Walters will begin their year-long program Aug. 1. The fellows will be tasked with working on university-wide projects, initiatives and strategies related to the academic enterprise with MacKinnon and the Provost Operations Management Team (POMT).

The fellowship is primarily project-based, with the Provost Operations Management Team (POMT) proposing several potential projects and the fellow and provost choosing two to three for the fellow to lead. The fellow will also attend POMT meetings, the POMT huddle and other administrative meetings.

The Jags4Jags Mentoring Program was an initiative developed by the first class, while the current class is working on several projects which will touch many different areas of the university.

The Provost Faculty Fellows is a program designed to provide eligible AU faculty members with leadership and administrative experiences to prepare a pipeline of future academic administrators and leaders at AU.

MacKinnon believes Miller and Walters are up for the challenge and have potential to be future leaders of the university. In turn, both view this as a monumental opportunity, and they are excited to gain more perspective on the workings of the university leadership team and are also keen on the idea of leaving a lasting impact on the AU community.

Each brings a unique perspective to bring to the task.

On top of her duties as associate professor in the College of Nursing, a family medicine clinician and researcher focused in areas (scholarship of teaching, lifestyle medicine, and maternal health), Walters is also the concentration coordinator for the Family Nurse Practitioner program, in which she is responsible for over 90 DNP students and their educational journeys.

On the other side, Miller, an associate professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences in Pamplin College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, does not currently hold in an administrative role, so he is excited for the opportunity being a Provost Faculty Fellow will afford him to receive hands-on training to take the next step.

“Speaking for myself, my training gearing up for my faculty position was focused on preparing me to conduct research and teach. I received very little training around leadership and administration, but you learn a little as you move along,” Miller said. “I see this as another intensive and intentional training opportunity in areas I haven’t received much training in.”

It’s a fact MacKinnon recognizes and is part of the reason he created the program.

“They will have the chance to be a part of conversations at the university level and will have the chance to learn via observation, but they will also have opportunities for hands-on learning as they explore what it’s like to come up with an idea and lead an initiative,” MacKinnon said. “For me, this really is hands-on training; there’s not a degree for how to become a university leader. For many of us, it’s been through trial and error, you hopefully have good mentors and you get good advice from others, but this hands-on training is really the best way to learn.”

Outside of the administration aspect, both Miller and Walters want to make an impact on student success, one of the five strategic priorities outlined in the current strategic plan.

Two men and a woman stand in a hallway talking.
Laurence Miller, PhD; Provost Neil J. MacKinnon, PhD; and Colleen Walters, DNP [Michael Holahan/Augusta University]

While both Miller and Walters are in health-related fields, they come from different backgrounds and bring their own perspectives to the opportunity, and that is something MacKinnon appreciates as they work to shape university policy and the student experience at AU.

“One of the biggest benefits is all the faculty who do this fellowship are coming from their discipline and college, but the projects they are going to be working on cut across the entire university, and I think that can be eye-opening for them as well,” said MacKinnon.

Miller knows what it’s like to be a first-generation college graduate, and while he recognizes that doesn’t necessarily mean he knows exactly what each of his students is going through, he knows it helps him to be empathetic and to develop trust between his students and himself.

“We have a lot of students here who, like me, are first-generation college students, and it’s one thing to get in the classroom and start learning, but how can we be more strategic with helping all students achieve their goals? I have found if I do share that, knowing someone in my position has that in common with them, it can be helpful and break down barriers that may be an obstacle to them,” Miller said.

Walters is also interested at looking at student success, and while she normally takes the approach of including students in her research studies as a way to facilitate that, for this undertaking she is approaching it from the view of the faculty and ensuring they are happy and engaged in the classroom.

Walters has been in the University System of Georgia for 12 years between two universities, and one thing which has always stood out to her is how many directions faculty are pulled in, especially those who conduct research, are clinicians or do both.

“I think if faculty are happy and we can keep our faculty, that’s a big part of student success. It is such a sacrifice to teach and to be away from your practice that it must be a passion,” Walters said. “I’m on the faculty development committee helping with the initiatives and recognitions of our faculty for the job they are doing. I see it as helping our faculty remember their ‘why.’”

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Written by
Milledge Austin

Milledge Austin is a senior communications and marketing strategist for Communications and Marketing at Augusta University. Contact him to schedule an interview on this topic or with one of our experts at miaustin@augusta.edu.

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man with glasses standing in front of blue background Written by Milledge Austin

Jagwire is your source for news and stories from Augusta University. Daily updates highlight the many ways students, faculty, staff, researchers and clinicians "bring their A games" in classrooms and clinics on four campuses in Augusta and locations across the state of Georgia.

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