February 9, 2017
Wesleyan College is proud to announce Dr. Vivia Lawton Fowler as the institution’s twenty-fifth president. Since 2007, Fowler has served Wesleyan as provost and vice president for academic affairs. In August 2016, President Ruth A. Knox announced her retirement effective June 30, 2017. Fowler will assume the responsibilities of president on July 1, 2017.
Fowler brings to the position significant experience in higher education, particularly liberal arts higher education for women. An ordained United Methodist minister, Fowler has almost thirty years of award-winning experience at two United Methodist women’s colleges as professor of religion and academic administrator, including almost ten years of leadership at Wesleyan College.
“I think often of the two thousand or so students I have encountered in the classroom whose professional and personal development I follow with joy and pride. But I am not nostalgic for the past as I look back on the history of small, private colleges and imagine the exciting future that lies ahead. Since 1836, Wesleyan has been a leader in women’s liberal arts education, and I am confident the college will continue to thrive in the future landscape of small, private, liberal arts higher education,” Fowler said.
In the role of provost, Fowler serves as the second ranking officer of the college, collaborating with faculty, staff, students, trustees, and alumnae to pursue the dreams and vision of the college. Among her strengths are the ability to motivate individuals and groups to accomplish goals, creativity to design successful strategies, and perseverance to accomplish challenging tasks.
Fowler said, “As a leader I seek to identify, empower, and support others to share the responsibility for institutional leadership. My great joy as a higher education administrator is seeing the transformation that our students so often experience as a result of being in the unique environment provided by a small liberal arts college.”
Under Fowler’s leadership, Wesleyan College has been named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll every year since its inception, twice receiving the honor “with distinction.” She led Wesleyan’s efforts to acquire a Confucius Institute which has brought many programs and activities that expand the reach of Wesleyan’s campus throughout the state. Subsequently she applied for and received approval from the U.S. Department of State to establish an American Cultural Center at the College’s partner institution in China, Guangzhou University, which has enabled almost half of the faculty to travel to China to provide lectures through the American Cultural Center. In 2014 began she began serving as academic director of Wesleyan College of Guangzhou University.
Fowler led the feasibility study for establishing the Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree at Wesleyan, which earned developmental approval from GA Board of Nursing in 2011, initial approval in 2012, and full approval in 2015. This program has added 60-80 traditional, full-time students, and the Middle Georgia medical community has initiated discussion about the next program to develop in health sciences.
“Indeed, many of the College’s successes in the last ten years – our nursing program, our renewed connections with China, new partnerships with folks like Navicent Health, the renovated library – all have resulted from Vivia’s creative leadership and persistent efforts. Without any doubt, the titles she has held, Dean and Provost, have never adequately captured the multitude of roles she has filled,” said President Knox.
In addition to serving as project director, co-director, and writer or co-writer for more than $5.3 million in grants, a few of Fowler’s notable roles at Wesleyan include: applied for and implemented Wesleyan chapter of Girls Who Code (the first in Central Georgia); served on the leadership team for GEAR UP, a federal grant-funded partnership with Bibb County Board of Education; developed collaborative partnership with Hiroshima Jogaquin University’s Peace Seminar for faculty and students; chair academic council, strategic planning, tenure and promotion; co-chair diversity, student support; member curriculum, general education, library and instructional technology, study abroad, student progress, admissions; develop community partnerships, such as with Navicent Health for Lean/Six Sigma program.
In 2010, Fowler developed Wesleyan’s Academy for Lifelong Learning, a continuing education membership program for adults. She continues to serve as co-chair, a member of the curriculum committee and the advisory board, and as an instructor.
“At my core, I am a teacher, and I have continued to teach one or two courses each year, either in the classroom or in the Wesleyan Academy for Lifelong Learning. I especially appreciate invitations from faculty to team-teach courses with them, as I have done on several occasions.”
Having published and presented dozens of professional papers and creative works, Fowler has also been active in the world of higher education assessment, especially through her work with Council of Independent Colleges and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools/Commission on Colleges. She has served on numerous on-site and off-site committees for reaffirmation and has been a frequent presenter at SACSCOC annual meetings, including serving as accreditation consultant for University of the Andes, Bogota, Colombia. She has been an active participant, presenter, and advisory board member for the National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition, and was honored with the title National First-Year Advocate.
In 1980, Fowler was consecrated as a diaconal minister and is now an ordained deacon in The United Methodist Church. She served churches in South Carolina for ten years before joining the faculty of Columbia College. She graduated cum laude from Columbia College and received a bachelor of arts in religion and Sociology (1976). She earned a master of arts in religion at the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary (1980) and a Ph.D. in philosophy (Foundations of Education: Psychological and Philosophical) at the University of South Carolina (1994). Between 2002 and 2007, Fowler was founder and co-executive director of eChristianEd a web-based training program for United Methodist leaders around the country.
Fowler’s honors include Columbia College Omicron Delta Kappa Professor of the Year (1995), Columbia College Outstanding Professor (1996), S.C. Governor’s Distinguished Professor Award (1997), and The United Methodist Church’s Francis Asbury Award (2002). In 2009, Columbia College honored Fowler with its prestigious Medallion Award, the institution’s highest honor. The Medallion is presented annually to individuals whom Columbia College wishes to recognize for exceptional accomplishments, leadership, and service. She has been nationally recognized for her work to support and advance efforts to improve student learning and transitions into and through college. Currently she serves on the Board of Directors at Carlyle Place; Foreign Expert, Wesleyan College of Guangzhou University; and Co-Director, American Cultural Center at Guangzhou University.
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