Everyone Wins: Visiting scholar programs strengthen university

Story and photos developed by University Communications.

F ew things make an immediate impact as great as the university’s visiting scholar programs.

Periodic academic visitors, whether long- or short-term, are a boost for everyone involved. Visiting scholars participate in the productive activities of a new department; expose Georgia College faculty to novel ideas and fresh perspectives; engage students with people who are prominent in their fields; and build heightened recognition for the university.

Dr. Costas Spirou
Dr. Costas Spirou
“The purpose of scholar programs is to provide our students, our faculty, our colleges and departments with opportunities for visitors to interact with and allow them the opportunity to engage in ways that would expand and enrich the student and faculty experience,” said Dr. Costas Spirou, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs.

“The concept is accepted as being a very important approach to strengthening the academic community,” Spirou said, “bringing in individuals who have different experiences and perspectives. This collaboration with faculty adds a whole new dimension to university life.”

The provost’s office started a new visiting scholar’s program last year, so departments could inject critical elements and ideas into curriculum through short-term engagements. Lengthier endowed programs were already well-established, running for either a semester or academic year. Most notable are the Paul D. Coverdell Visiting Scholar and Martha Daniel Newell Scholar programs.

Shorter visits are easier to accomplish and finance. They’re also more convenient for guests who can’t be away from their families and institutions for long.

“Georgia College is a relatively small institution, and our various programs cannot cover all the specialties contained within the academic disciplines. A visiting scholar can temporarily fill a gap in departmental coverage for at least a semester,” said Dr. Eric Tenbus, dean of College of Arts & Sciences (COAS).

Last spring, three experts came for week-long visits.

Former Olympian Butch Reynolds visited campus in spring 2022.
Former Olympian Butch Reynolds visited campus in spring 2022.

Former Olympian Butch Reynolds was the first provost scholar. In early February, he worked directly with students and faculty in the College of Health Sciences. He told them about substance abuse and ethics in exercise science, detailing obstacles he overcame to become the fastest runner in the world.

In March, Dr. Peter Cardon spent a week with students and faculty in the department of information systems and computer science. A professor of clinical business communication at the University of Southern California, Cardon shared his deep interest in information technology and how artificial intelligence influences communication.

In April, Distinguished Research Award winner Dr. Douglas Walker was hosted by the economics department. A former Georgia College faculty member, Walker is an economist at the College of Charleston in South Carolina. He talked to students about the socioeconomic impacts of gambling.

This year’s line-up of provost scholars is impressive too:

  •  The department of professional learning & innovation will host Dr. Brenda Juarez Harris of Southern Utah University. Co-author of “White Parents, Black Children: Understanding Adoption and Race,” Harris will present research on exemplary black teachers and raising consciousness. She’ll also participate in informal lunches and dinners with the diversity committee and College of Education faculty.
  •  The department of communication will host Dr. R. Jarrod Atchison. He is director of the national championship-winning debate team at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. Atchison will deliver a keynote address for his new, co-authored book “We Are Not One People: Secession and Separatism in American Politics Since 1776.”  He will also hold a debate workshop and judge a public debate, hosted by Georgia College’s Speech & Debate team on Milledgeville history and public memory of secession, co-sponsored by the department of history and geography.
  •  The communication department will also host Dr. Jenna Hanchey, assistant professor at Hugh Downs School of Communication at Arizona State University. Hanchey was a Peace Corps volunteer in Tanzania. Her research examines aid, development and volunteer work in Africa. Hanchey’s visit will help foster diverse thought, professional practice and global awareness across the communication curriculum.
  •  The department of biology will host Dr. Rebecca Bixby, director of the University of New Mexico Water Resources Program. Her research on aquatic ecosystems focuses on the responses and adaptation of aquatic organisms to natural and anthropogenic stressors like fire, drought and flooding. Bixby will work with students in Georgia College’s new Aquatic Science Center, GC Shades of Green, Office of Sustainability, Environmental Sciences Club and Rural Studies Institute.

Whether visiting scholars come for a week or a year—they all greatly supplement life on campus, Spirou said.

The Coverdell position was revised in 2019 to attract policy scholars within humanities and the social sciences. The position used to be called the Paul D. Coverdell Chair in Policy Studies, held 10 years by former professor Dr. Roger Coate. During that time, Coate brought in a number of distinguished speakers from around the world to provide co-curricular programming for students—many were connected to the United Nations.

The Newell Scholar position was created in 2011 for long-term visitors from any academic discipline in the College of Arts and Sciences (COAS). Another endowed position on campus is the Alex Gregory Distinguished Fellow in Leadership program. It brings highly experienced groundbreakers and forerunners for extended stays on campus to share expertise with the next generation of leaders.

Georgia College also sponsors on-going residency programs to expand opportunities on campus. The music department works with the Kazanetti String Quartet of Atlanta to provide individual and group sectional support for the university’s String Orchestra and related chamber groups. And few years ago, the English Department established the Darugar Scholar in-residence program to provide students and faculty opportunities to engage and learn from nationally-recognized writers.

Scholars participate in department activities and broaden perspectives by giving public lectures and presentations, hosting workshops and seminars, teaching classes and holding discussions.

These interactions raise awareness and promote the university.

This is an important piece to our endeavors and quest for academic excellence. The more we do in this area, the better it is for our university and academic community and, honestly, I think it goes beyond the academic community. These interactions are not just for faculty and students but the community too. It brings vibrancy to the intellectual environment here on campus and in Milledgeville.
– Dr. Costas Spirou