Andy Jett, Ed.D., recently joined Avila University as its new Dean of the College of Professional Schools, overseeing the Schools of Business, Education and Visual & Communication Arts (VisCom), as well as the Avila Advantage Institute for Professional Studies. We asked Andy a few questions about his experience, wide array of academic experience and planning in an uncertain time.
Why did you begin with your associate’s degree and how did that experience prepare you for your undergraduate experience and future at large?
As a first-generation college student, I could not see myself attending a large state university. I grew up in the rural Midwest, spending most of my time out of school on horseback and attending small school districts, so my focus was to find a small college or community college that could give me that same one-on-one attention I received in high school. The affordability factor was also important because beyond my scholarships, I paid for my way through school.
Being successful in community college gave me the confidence I had the intellectual chops and work ethic to be successful in school and I learned the ins and outs of higher education in a safe place. My greatest memories and group of lifelong friends are from those two years at Colby Community College. Those people impacted me then and have continued to impact me till this day.
You’ve earned your associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in different fields. How do you think your familiarity with the different stages of the secondary educational system, as well as different concentrations, prepare you for the role of Dean of the College of Professional Schools?
As a dean, you’re focused on supporting your faculty properly to provide the greatest academic experience for the student. We do this by giving students the ‘space’ to grow into themselves within the area of study they have chosen. Also, it is essential that as dean you build and help execute new and relevant programs that support the continued sustainability and growth of the institution.
My academic career has exposed me to the varying levels of challenges and opportunities for faculty and students. Having been a student, faculty member, administrator and even parent of a college student I feel very equipped to address the challenges this role will bring. My experience as a student in the first stage of my career, and later, juggling coursework and the demands of my faculty and administrative roles gave me insight into the demands faced by all those in higher education.
In light of the changes brought about by COVID-19, how will your previous experience overseeing institutional information technology and efficiency, among other areas, put you in a position of strength as you begin overseeing the College?
The world moving forward will be a new one and one we are not yet fully able to grasp.
Some of the changes forced on Avila and other institutions by the pandemic could mean we will be better positioned to excel in the future. The future of education is increasingly online and technologically-augmented. Avila students will demand some implementation of these new technologies to provide them the personalized and professionally-oriented academic experience they expect. In my career supporting faculty and staff with technology solutions, I’ve seen those tools embraced and implemented effectively. But I’ve also seen when new technology is introduced ineffectively, and I hope this has given me a better understanding of how to work with faculty and students to maximize the experience. Investments in technology and proper training will be key to introducing modern tools that maintain the personal connections on which Avila prides itself.