Meet Alison Riley
Alison Riley started out her academic career by pursuing a bachelor’s degree in economics, and graduated from the University of Liverpool in England. Subsequently she worked in management in the UK, but when she moved across the Atlantic, her plans changed. “When I came to the U.S., I thought I might like to be a CPA,” Riley said. First she earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting at Florida State University, and in 1998 she achieved the highest score in Florida on the CPA exam. While pursuing a master’s degree in the field, she was required to teach undergraduates with as many as 200 in a single class. “That’s when I realized that I really liked teaching,” Riley said.
After graduating with a master’s degree, Riley went on to earn a Ph.D. from FSU and focus on teaching as a career. Shortly after graduation, she began teaching on a part-time basis at Thomas University in May 2006. In August 2006, Riley became a full-time faculty member at Thomas University where she teaches classes in accounting, finance, and tax. Sometimes she encounters students who have the mindset that accounting will be too difficult for them. Riley explains to them that nothing could be further from the truth. “Everyone thinks accounting is about sitting at a desk and doing math,” she said. “Really it’s about telling the stories of businesses in numbers.” Students in Riley’s classes often compliment her teaching style.
“Accounting seems to come naturally to me, and I think this comes over when I teach the subject,” she said. “I believe that the ability to condense complex issues and concepts down into simple-to-understand pieces is an enormously valuable tool to be able to use in coaching students, and helps boost their confidence. Many students have told me that they really enjoyed my classes and that they came away feeling like they had mastered much more than they had expected. That’s very encouraging to me.”
Riley gets a great deal of satisfaction when students find they not only enjoy the subject but that it now makes sense to them. That’s when some realize they enjoy accounting so much that they choose the field for their careers. “You can tell when you’ve changed someone’s life for the better,” she said, “and it’s a fabulous feeling.”
Meet Dr. Ann Landis
Since 2006, Dr. Ann Landis has served as the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Thomas University. In this role she is a strategic leader for the University as a whole, providing leadership and vision for Academic Affairs and operational areas that impact students’ educational experience. She also serves as the chief academic officer and second-ranking executive officer of the University reporting directly to TU President Dr. Gary Bonvillian.
One of her responsibilities is recruiting faculty members to teach in one of Thomas University’s nine academic divisions.
“It’s not difficult to recruit faculty because it doesn’t take them long to sense the vibrant environment here,” Dr. Landis said. “Here they find energy and encouragement for creative ideas and approaches. There’s also a genuine concern for students.”
When seeking ideal faculty members, she looks beyond just a candidate’s résumé.
“The first thing I look for is whether someone will be a good fit,” Dr. Landis said. “I want someone who will jump into the teaching and learning endeavor with both feet, form inter-disciplinary collaboration, and be genuinely committed to student learning.”
She also emphasizes the approach to teaching.
“Your natural inclination should be to talk with students and make yourself available to students,” Dr. Landis said. “You may even need to alter the way you teach something to reach students more effectively. You’ve got to love teaching.”
Dr. Landis explains that being a TU faculty member requires commitment.
“Thomas University is a fast-paced environment,” she said. “We move at the speed of learning. The world of higher education is international, technological, inventive, and concerned about assessing accomplishments and making improvements based on feedback. Our faculty members must really thrive on these things. If that excites you, then you’re a good fit.”
Dr. Landis was exposed to the world of higher education early in life through her parents – a college professor and a college administrator at a small private university.
“It was a world in which I experienced a wonderful sense of community,” she said.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in English and Education from Eastern Mennonite University, Dr. Landis taught as a high school teacher in Virginia while earning a master’s degree in English from James Madison University. She then taught English at Bluffton University in Ohio.
“From there I knew the small private university environment was where I wanted to work,” she said.
Dr. Landis earned a Ph.D. in Humanities at Florida State University, also teaching Humanities courses at FSU. In the fall of 1998 she joined Thomas University as a full-time Assistant Professor of English and in 2001 assumed academic leadership for Arts and Sciences.
“I knew a small private university offers students rigorous learning and belonging to a community, and I wanted to be part of that mission,” Dr. Landis said. “My colleagues at TU are dedicated to students’ growth and learning while at the same time developing themselves as effective teachers and scholars within their discipline. Sixty percent of our full-time faculty holds the terminal degree in their field which is higher than many public and private universities.”
“TU is unique in that not every small private university is as focused on students’ personal and professional transformation,” Dr. Landis said. “Whether our students have just finished high school or been in the workforce for a number of years, we recognize that many dynamics impact their educational journey. Our professors care about those dynamics and students’ success in the classroom and in life. Our faculty and staff are truly dedicated to helping students reach their goals. This is my life’s work – being a part of the life-changing difference that education makes for individuals and communities.”
Meet Ingee Lee
Ingee Lee sees math differently than most people.
“Math, in my opinion, is one of the best tools to improve brain function,” Lee said. “Everything is logical. Everything is wrong or right, not in-between.”
As an assistant professor of mathematics at Thomas University, Lee helps students understand the logic behind mathematics every day. He prefers to teach in a small group.
“In my experience, students work better with more one-to-one instruction in math,” he said. “It’s very exciting to watch students improve their math skills with my help. It’s so satisfying for me. That’s why I chose teaching at Thomas University.”
Lee’s voyage to Thomas University began a continent away. As a child growing up in South Korea, he dreamed of becoming a medical doctor. After his sophomore year of college, Lee served two years in the Army, a requirement in South Korea.
That’s when he changed his plans of becoming a medical doctor. Instead, he headed to the United States to complete his college degree. Lee earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree at the University of North Carolina.
“My mother and father encouraged me to come to the U.S.,” Lee said. “They said, ‘Go to a bigger world and be a better man.’ Now I love the U.S.”
Lee then headed south to become a doctoral student at Florida State University and an adjunct instructor at Thomas University. After four years working part-time at TU, Lee became a full-time faculty member. He’s now in his third semester as an assistant professor of mathematics.
Meet Sue Otto
When Dr. Susan Otto arrived at Thomas University in 2003, the school’s RN-BSN program, established in 1995, had an enrollment of about 25 students. Since her arrival, however, the TU nursing program has expanded to become among the most successful in the region, as well as a cornerstone of TU’s academic operations.
Dr. Otto became chair of the Division of Nursing in 2006, the same year the school’s Master of Nursing program was established. In recent years, she has been instrumental in extending the school’s reach to include satellite campuses at Capital Regional Medical Center in Tallahassee and Colquitt Regional Medical Center in Moultrie. Launch of a third satellite campus at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital, the city’s largest employer, is scheduled for January 2010.
Enrollment in the last six years has quadrupled, with more than 100 students now working toward nursing degrees at TU. “I attribute the growth of this program to the support and vision of the current administration, and the partnerships we have with the health care organizations in the community,” Dr. Otto said.
First and foremost among reasons for such success, she added, is the reputation of the program itself. “People know about us. They are looking for a program that is going to give them not only a great education, but a foundation on which to build their future nursing career,” Dr. Otto said.
“Our faculty are experts in their fields. They have the most current knowledge of the nursing practice, which makes this program useful and relevant to our students,” she said. “We have a standard of excellence that we do not compromise on. We have high expectations of ourselves and of our students.”
Dr. Otto always wanted to become a nurse because of an interest in physiology and how the human body worked. “What I love about nursing is that it is both a science and an art. It not only challenges you intellectually, but it gives you a real sense of meaning and purpose.” she said.
“It’s a career in which you can change fields several times and still remain a nurse. From working in the emergency room to working in mental health, it’s a field that gives you so many options, but it all starts with having that degree,” Dr. Otto said.
This year, Dr. Otto earned a Ph.D. in Nursing from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She holds a Master’s Degree in Nursing from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, and a B.S. from Cardinal Stritch College.
Meet Eleanor Hall
“In nursing, we’re all about the human element, especially preventing illness and promoting wellness,” Hall said.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Vanderbilt University in 1985. After working for several years as a research assistant in Memphis, Tenn., she realized that it was time for a career change. That’s when Hall went back to school and earned a diploma as an RN from Baptist Memorial Hospital School of Nursing in 1991. A decade later she earned a Master of Science in Nursing Degree from Vanderbilt through its distance learning program. For 12 years Hall worked at Archbold Medical Center in Thomasville in orthopedics, neurology, pediatrics and later as a clinical educator. In 2002 Hall began teaching as an adjunct at Thomas University. In 2006 she joined the faculty full time. As a faculty member in the Division of Nursing, Hall teaches classes on the main campus in Thomasville as well as satellite campuses at Colquitt Regional Medical Center in Moultrie, Ga., and at Capital Regional Medical Center, in Tallahassee, Fl.
Earlier this month Hall received a Ph.D. in nursing from Georgia State University. To help fund her education, Hall was the first recipient of a scholarship for doctoral students through the Allied Health Education Center based in Albany, Ga. For her dissertation, Hall explored adherence to hypertension treatment in the Latino migrant farm worker population in Southwest Georgia. She noted that migrant farm workers often have a variety of socioecological issues that affect their health. During her days working in a hospital setting, she recalled the number of migrant farm workers who came seeking medical care.
“I saw a vulnerable population that was also marginalized,” Hall said. “I felt that all we were doing in the acute care was putting on a Band-Aid and sending them back out.”
Now she wants to take the knowledge gained from her dissertation research and return to this population to educate and promote strategies to improve hypertension treatment adherence.In addition to her work at Thomas University, Hall also serves on the board of directors of Safe Haven, an organization that helps people with HIV/AIDS in Southwest Georgia, and on the Thomas County Central High School Health Occupations Advisory Board.
Meet Paul Wilkens
Wilkens originally planned to pursue a career in the advertising business. Then his interest shifted to management. While pursuing a Master of Business Administration Degree at Ohio State University, Wilkens was asked to teach a basic management class. There were 55 students in that first class. “While I was nervous, I also found it very challenging,” Wilkens said. “After a while, it was very satisfying.” He realized that his calling was to be a teacher. "At that point I decided that teaching was first and management was second,” Wilkens said. “I’m a teacher who happens to have knowledge in a functional area called management.”
That first teaching experience convinced him to pursue a Ph.D. in management, also from Ohio State University, and a career that has spanned more than 40 years in the classroom. “Rather than go out into the business world, I decided to teach,” Wilkens said.
Wilkens’ career in higher education began in 1970 when he joined the faculty at Florida State University as an assistant professor of management. He retired from FSU as a professor of management in 2004. A month later, he joined the faculty at Thomas University as a professor of business. Wilkens’ résumé also includes two years of service as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army, where he worked in personnel management. Over the years, he’s kept at least one foot in the business world. Wilkens is co-owner of a startup business in Tallahassee. He’s also served as a management consultant for companies and provided management training programs for both government and private industry. “That kept me in close contact with the business world,” Wilkens said. “I think that’s important for a professor.”
Wilkens has found a special place at Thomas University. Many of his students are non-traditional students who juggle work, family and school. “This university places a great deal of emphasis on teaching and student contact,” he said. “Non-traditional students have special problems that I have to be aware of and deal with.”
For him, the reward of teaching is simple. “It’s that feeling I get when I walk out of a classroom, and I know it was a good class,” Wilkens said. “Based on the students’ questions, you can tell when the students are interested.”