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New Provost Costas Spirou: Focus on Teacher-Scholar Model important for liberal arts education

Georgia College prides itself on being the state’s designated public liberal arts university. The high-quality faculty, low student-teacher ratios and personalized attention for students makes for a unique and dynamic undergraduate experience.

Newly named Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Costas Spirou is no stranger to the educational offerings and opportunities provided through a Georgia College education.

Spirou first joined Georgia College in January 2013 as the chair of the Department of Government and Sociology and a professor of sociology and public administration. In August 2015, Spirou became the senior associate provost for academic affairs and director of The Graduate School. Twice, he served as interim provost.

Now in his permanent role as provost, he’s focusing on ways to continue to strengthen the academic experience for students and challenge each of them to think independently and lead creatively in all their endeavors.

 “Georgia College’s focus on a liberal arts education is vital in today’s society as it is built on not only learning broadly across subjects like history, sciences, math and the arts, but also on developing skills like critical thinking, leadership and learning to be adaptable,” said Spirou, provost and vice president for academic affairs.

“I believe students can do all those things and more when they are exposed to and can participate in research, so that’s a crucial part of our liberal arts experience,” he said. 

Georgia College provides many opportunities for students, at the undergraduate and graduate levels, to engage in research with faculty known for their expertise. In his new role as provost, Spirou wants to not only increase those opportunities but also encourage all faculty to take on the teacher-scholar model.

Dr. Spirou participates in a talk on campus.

“As a liberal arts university, our primary focus for faculty is teaching. We have exceptional faculty who actively engage students in the classroom with their teaching techniques,” said Spirou. “But being a teacher-scholar also emphasizes the importance for faculty to be actively involved in their own scholarship and encourage those activities with our students.  In fact, faculty model the liberal arts through these engagements.”

In fact, it’s something Spirou’s so passionate about that he’s currently involved in several research projects with both colleagues and students.

“I’m currently completing a book manuscript titled ‘Anchoring Innovation Districts: The Entrepreneurial University and Urban Change,’ which is under contract with Johns Hopkins University Press,” said Spirou. “The book examines a recent trend in higher education as universities are actively investing resources in the creation of innovation districts."

"Embedded in the urban environment, the development of these entities is fueled by the formation of structures to support and attract entrepreneurial activity, primarily emanating from the commercialization of technology.  This direction has significant implications for both higher education and the city."  

He’s also currently co-editing “The Many Futures of Work: Interpretations, Contentions, Expectations.” This book examines the technological, political and economic sources of the “gig economy,” the impact of the rapidly changing labor economy and ameliorative policy options. 

With a background in public policy and urban affairs, many of Spirou’s past research topics stem from his connections in Chicago. A recent book titled, “Building the City of Spectacle: Mayor Richard M. Daley and the Remaking of Chicago” (with D. Judd) was published by Cornell University Press in 2016 and earned him prestigious recognition from the Chicago Public Library. On Oct. 10, he was an honored guest author at the 20th annual Carl Sandburg Literary Awards Dinner, which raises funds to support the Chicago Public Library.

“During the event, I led a discussion on my book and was a chance to discuss Chicago politics and the role Mayor Daley played in shaping the city into what it is today,” he said. “I’m honored to have been invited and for my work to be included in this event.”

Widely recognized for his expertise, Spirou’s passion lies in academia. He knows first-hand the value an education can provide, and it’s his goal as provost to ensure all students have the opportunity to make the most of their educational experience at Georgia College.

 “Teaching and scholarship engagement is at the core of a liberal arts experience. It’s what allows our students to have a unique opportunity when compared to other larger institutions—the ability to study hands on, side by side with experienced faculty,” said Spirou.

“Engaging closely with faculty can open many doors for students when they graduate. Whether they decide to further their education with graduate school or go directly into the workforce, these experiences prepare them for the real work being done in their field and give them a ‘leg up’ on their competition.”

During his time at Georgia College, Spirou has lead efforts to restructure several administrative units to create the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) and worked on the development of a revised curriculum approval process. He was also an American Council on Education (ACE) Fellow between 2017 and 2018 at Georgia Institute of Technology. 

Spirou has also been the recipient of numerous grants and has written scores of opinion editorials and media contributions. In so doing, Dr. Spirou has been an outstanding ambassador for Georgia College; and he has effectively advocated for our unique liberal arts approach during multiple conferences, presentations, media interviews, and through his affiliations with various professional associations and editorial boards.

Before coming to Georgia College, he held academic appointments at numerous universities including as a Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Latino Studies of the University of Notre Dame (2009-2011) and a Research Fellow at the Center of Cultural Understanding and Change of the Field Museum in Chicago (2005-2010).

He received his Ph.D. from Loyola University of Chicago, his master’s with distinction from DePaul University and his bachelor’s from Franciscan University.

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