December 18, 2015
15-303

Jessica Pope
Communications and Media Relations Coordinator

Dr. Cecil P. Staton, interim president at VSU, announces the following administrative changes, effective Jan. 1, 2016

Today I am pleased to announce several significant administrative appointments within the university, effective Jan. 1, 2016. During my almost six months as interim president at Valdosta State, one of the most encouraging things I have encountered is the strength and commitment of our administrators, faculty, and staff.

• Dr. Michael Paul Savoie has been named dean of the Honors College.

Mike joined the VSU faculty in 1998 as a temporary assistant professor in the College of the Arts, Department of Communication Arts. A year later he applied for a tenure-track position as an assistant professor in what was formerly known as the Telecommunications Area, now known as the Mass Media Area. He has taken advantage of several opportunities to assume leadership positions at the university, including serving as area head and assistant dean of the College of the Arts. He was appointed interim dean of the Honors College in Sept. 1, 2012.

“Honors is about student success, and without the great work of the students, my work would be meaningless,” he said. “As a college, we operate very differently than the other academic areas. We have little administrative and staff support, so we work closely with the students to operate and function as a program. We are also fortunate to oversee several scholarship funds to provide the best and brightest students with the opportunity to study at VSU and to enhance opportunities in their disciplines.”

Under his guidance as interim dean, the Honors College has experienced record growth in enrollment. Mike plans to continue this trend by expanding the college’s Honors Scholars Program, which currently provides funding for more than 150 top-tier academically talented and motivated students who are “excellent ambassadors and representatives for VSU and their discipline areas.”

“I am proud of the great work of everyone involved in the Honors College,” he said. “I am also proud of VSU and the incredible community that we serve. Lastly, I thank President Staton and Provost Gerber for making decisive changes and for their concern for everyone at Valdosta State University.”

Mike is a VSU alumnus. He earned a Doctor of Education with a major in leadership in 2013 from the James L. and Dorothy H. Dewar College of Education and Human Services, Department of Curriculum, Leadership, and Technology.

• Dr. Sheri R. Noviello has been named Dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences.

Sheri joined the VSU faculty on April 1, 2014, as associate dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences. She was appointed interim dean three months later. 

“I am truly honored to be the dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences and to work with an amazing group of faculty and staff that are poised to meet and overcome the challenges of our institution and college,” she said. “Change is not easy for many individuals. However, if we come together as a collective body, then we can embrace the changes that are necessary to experience significant growth and a new level of excellence for Valdosta State University. I am so excited to be a Blazer.”

Under her guidance as interim dean, the College of Nursing and Health Sciences received approval to open the Center for Exercise Medicine and Rehabilitation in the Health Sciences and Business Administration Building in January 2016. It developed the Student Performance and Retention Center (SPARC), which provides students admitted to the nursing program with strategies for success and faculty with professional development in classroom and clinical teaching strategies. It also developed the Providing Advising and Support for Success (PASS) Center. The Exercise Physiology Program received initial accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). The School of Nursing began formalizing a simulation program that utilizes VSU theatre majors as standardized patients for evaluating nurse practitioner students’ clinical performance.  

Sheri’s future plans for the College of Nursing and Health Sciences include a renewed focus on increasing retention and graduation rates; implementing a nurse-managed clinic in the Health Sciences and Business Administration Building; receiving approval for a Master of Science in Exercise Physiology (M.S.E.P.) Program from the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, with implementation in the fall of 2016; receiving approval for a consortium-style Doctor of Nursing Practice (D.N.P.) Program with the University of North Georgia and Armstrong State University, with implementation in the fall of 2016 or spring of 2017; developing strategies for increasing National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) pass rates, with a goal of 95 percent in three years; and activating and engaging college alumni. 

Sheri’s middle son is currently pursuing a degree in exercise physiology at VSU.

• Dr. James T. LaPlant has been named dean of the Graduate School and assistant vice president of research.

James joined the VSU faculty in 1996 as an assistant professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Political Science, and currently holds the rank of professor, teaching one course a semester on such topics as southern politics, conspiracy theories in American politics, and research methods. He has served as the college’s assistant dean and associate dean. He was appointed interim dean of the Graduate School and interim assistant vice president for research in February 2013.

“We have wonderful staff in the Graduate School and the Office of Sponsored Programs and Research Administration, and I am very excited about the opportunity to continue to work with such talented staff as we advance in the future,” he said.

Under his guidance as interim dean, the Graduate School has witnessed a significant increase in gradate student enrollment, as well as grant writing, over the last two years, which he said is due to the hard work of the faculty. It has implemented dissertation-writing circles with the IDEA Center to help advance doctoral students to completion and created a student travel fund to support graduate students presenting at professional meetings. 

James’s leadership has also led to the involvement of a record number of undergraduate students in innovative research projects with faculty mentors across all of the colleges at VSU, part of the university’s Quality Enhancement Plan. His future plans include the implementation of a 3-Minute Thesis Competition, which asks graduate students to summarize their thesis or dissertation research in a 180-second presentation, and the development of crowd-funding initiatives for faculty and student research.

I am grateful for the leadership provided by Interim Deans Savoie, Noviello, and LaPlant. Their leadership over an extended period of time has demonstrated their commitment to the university and their colleges. I appreciate the time this has allowed to learn about their visions for their colleges. I am grateful that they have agreed to assume their leadership roles on a permanent basis, and I am confident their leadership will help us achieve our goals and ambitions for their colleges.

• Philip D. Allen has been named the executive assistant to the president and vice president for External Affairs.

Phil’s new duties include supporting and providing strategic advice to the president. He is responsible for coordinating and implementing the president’s agenda throughout the university; maintaining the day-to-day details of running the institution; and guiding the university’s Communications, Marketing, Creative Services, and Institutional Research units. He originally joined the VSU staff in 1996 as chief engineer of satellite services and has gone on to serve as interim director of the Office of Public Services, director of the Office of Entrepreneurial Projects, director of External and Governmental Affairs, and most recently, assistant to the president for Government Relations and Community Engagement.  He is a VSU alumnus, having earned a Master of Public Administration from the College of Arts and Sciences in May 2002. “This is a challenging but exciting time to be at VSU,” he said. “I appreciate the opportunity to continue serving our students, faculty, and staff, as well as our community, region, and state in this new role.”

With the movement of marketing and communications back to the president’s office, I am grateful that Phil Allen has agreed to assume the leadership role of executive assistant to the president and vice president of External Affairs. Phil’s experience at Valdosta State uniquely positions him to provide the leadership we need in the area of external affairs.

Tony Thomas has been named chief legal affairs officer and assistant professor in the Harley Langdale Jr. College of Business Administration, Department of Management.

Tony was appointed interim university attorney and chief legal affairs officer at VSU in August 2015. He is professionally licensed by the State Bar of Georgia and the State Bar of Florida and most recently served as acting general counsel, chief legal affairs officer, and chief diversity officer at Georgia Gwinnett College. He earned a Juris Doctor from Stetson University College of Law. “VSU embodies a longstanding tradition of trailblazing excellence in service, excellence in academic standards, and excellence in student engagement,” he said. “I am humbled to join the ranks as VSU Blazer. Thank you for the opportunity to serve.”

“I am grateful that Tony has agreed to join us on a permanent basis to fulfill the important function of university attorney. I appreciate the work of the search committee for this position chaired by Dr. Sheri Noviello.

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