Scully to serve as vice provost for undergraduate education

By Kimber Williams | Emory Report | Feb. 21, 2018

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In her new role as vice provost for undergraduate education, professor and administrator Pamela Scully will lead programs and initiatives focused on enhancing the undergraduate experience and supporting student success. Emory Photo/Video

Five years ago, when Pamela Scully became the new director of Emory’s Center for Faculty Development and Excellence and assistant vice provost for academic innovation, she was intrigued by the chance to help Emory’s faculty members strengthen what they bring to the classroom as researchers, educators, authors and mentors. 

Now, as she prepares to step into a new position dedicated to overseeing the Emory undergraduate experience, Scully views her upcoming responsibilities as “the other side of what I’ve been doing — now I will be focusing on helping students flourish in all parts of their life at Emory.”

This month, Dwight A. McBride, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, announced that Scully has been appointed vice provost for undergraduate education following a search. She will begin her transition next month with plans to step fully into the role by June 1, 2018.

“I am thrilled to have Dr. Scully step into the role of vice provost for undergraduate education,” McBride says. “Her understanding of the undergraduate student experience is unparalleled and she is driven to educate and inspire students both in and beyond the classroom. With her leadership, Emory will deliver on its promise to undergraduates of even greater connection between their academic and co-curricular pursuits, which is critical to inspiring our students as the next generation of leaders.”

In her new role, Scully will lead campus-wide programs and initiatives in support of the university’s vision and objectives focused on enhancing the undergraduate experience and supporting student success.

Through collaborative work with Emory College’s undergraduate deans and leaders in the Division of Campus Life, Scully will work to ensure that the experience for Emory students provides for optimal intellectual and personal exploration and development.

“Beyond thinking about how students learn and what’s good for students, I will now be thinking about everything about the student experience, from where they live and if they are flourishing, both inside and outside of classes, to whether they are moving through programs with ease,” she explains.

A key focus of Scully’s work will be to ensure that students are thriving within the liberal arts undergraduate experience offered at a top research university. “Are they able to fully benefit from that configuration, which is Emory’s strength?” she says.

Though the responsibilities are wide-ranging, Scully is energized to embrace the challenge. “I look forward to working with deans, faculty and staff, who are all very much engaged with this project of the undergraduate experience.”

She is also pleased to be working with McBride, “who brings a commitment and passion to the intellectual experience at Emory — both for faculty and students — along with an understanding of the importance of friendship and community,” she says.

“And I’m thrilled to be part of and support the work of both President (Claire E.) Sterk and Provost McBride, who are launching Emory into an exciting new era.”

Advocating for faculty, students

As a highly respected historian and professor of women’s, gender and sexuality studies and African studies; former chair of Emory’s Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies; and former director of Emory’s Institute of African Studies, Scully has a distinguished record of academic achievement and a demonstrated and long-standing commitment to undergraduate student success. 

Under her leadership, the CFDE expanded its support of faculty in areas of community-engaged learning and online learning, created new programs in inclusive pedagogy, a Teaching Fellows program for faculty in undergraduate schools, and expanded support for faculty scholarship and writing. 

“We have tried very hard to meet faculty where they are, holding office hours in schools and expanding learning opportunities,” Scully says. “I am very proud of our outreach, including a determined effort to work with faculty at Oxford College, and our increasing focus on inclusive pedagogies.

“We served over 1,000 faculty members last year in some capacity,” she adds. “It’s really been one of the most fulfilling and exciting periods of my life.”

In addition to her role with CFDE, Scully continues to teach, including Emory university courses and first-year seminars. She also played a key role in 2014 developing Emory’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), “The Nature of Evidence” — part of Emory’s reaffirmation of its accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

In October 2017, Scully was appointed associate vice provost for faculty affairs, still directing the CFDE and reinventing and directing the Emory Academic Leadership Program — based in the Office of the Provost — for faculty at Emory and participants from Atlanta colleges and universities.

Scully also continues her engagement in scholarly writing. In 2016, she published “Ellen Johnson Sirleaf” (Ohio University Press), about the life of the former president of Liberia and Africa’s first elected woman president, and is already at work on a new book.

‘It’s all about the students’

A native of South Africa, Scully acknowledges that she didn’t always envision a career in higher education. Like many students, she arrived at college in search of her academic passion.

“When I turned in my first essay in college, my history professor — one of the few women at the time — took me aside and said, ‘Pamela, have you ever thought about doing an honors degree?’”

At the time, “it was like saying, ‘How would you like to go to the moon?” she recalls, laughing.

But the invitation opened her eyes. She would go on to earn a bachelor’s degree in history (with honors) and a master’s degree in history (with distinction) from the University of Cape Town and a PhD in history from the University of Michigan, where she passed her exams with distinction.

Active in the anti-apartheid movement, Scully briefly considered going to law school to continue the fight for racial equality in South Africa. But the rewards that she found working with students and the pull of intellectual work ultimately drew her toward higher education.

“Teaching is a transformative activity,” Scully says. “In the end, I always wanted to be in academics.

“I love and respect the 18- to 22-year-old age group; they are the future of the world,” she says. “That’s the nice thing about this new job — it’s all about students. You are helping young people find out who they are, watching them thrive and learn and move on with the rest of their lives.”

Scully also understands the undergraduate experience as a parent: her son, Benjamin, graduated from Emory College of Arts and Science in 2016, and her daughter, Christine, will graduate this May.