By Mandy Moe Pwint Tu
Dr. Elizabeth Skomp, Associate Dean for Faculty Development and Inclusion, and Dr. Becky Spurlock, Associate Vice President and Senior Associate Dean of Student Life, will be leaving Sewanee to take up posts at Stetson University and the University of Texas at the Permian Basin (UTPB), respectively.
Following a nation-wide search, Skomp will serve as the next dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Stetson University in DeLand, Florida, starting mid-July. Stetson University Provost and Executive Vice President, Dr. Noel Painter, made the announcement of her appointment on June 14.
“We are enthusiastic to have a leader who shares a strong commitment to liberal arts education, with demonstrated value for inclusion and equity, join the university,” said Painter. “Throughout the search process, the search committee has heard Skomp described as fair, unflappable, prepared, able to navigate a wide range of administrative challenges and someone who can foster work across the diverse disciplines in the college.”
Skomp is looking forward to engaging with Stetson’s teacher-scholar model, which utilizes faculty scholarship as a foundation for creative endeavors and student engagement. In an interview with The Purple, she mentions Values Day, an annual event where students, faculty, and staff convene for a day of reflection and action.
“Stetson is an institution that places its values front and center as a way to unite the campus community,” said Skomp. “I’ll admit that I’m also looking forward to having an office in a building called Elizabeth Hall!”
At Sewanee, Skomp has steered vital inclusion initiatives through faculty development and grant seeking, integrated advising, the Dialogue Across Difference program, and study abroad. She believes that “alongside efforts to recruit and retain a diverse student body, faculty, and staff, continued development of initiatives to create an ever more equitable and inclusive campus climate will be essential.”
She has overseen the Center for Teaching, the Office of Advising, the Office of Undergraduate Research, Writing Across the Curriculum, and the University Art Gallery. A scholar of Russian literature and culture, she has previously served as chair of the Russian Department and as director of the Sewanee Summer in Russia Program in St. Petersburg.
She has taught at the School of Letters and served as director of the Humanities Program, but in her 14 years at Sewanee, she is most proud of the work she and her colleagues have done to “invigorate and transform the Russian Department.”
On the other side of campus, Spurlock, who works in the Dean of Students’ Office, is particularly proud of how student perceptions of the office has changed.
“When I arrived, most students seemed to think of us as the college equivalent of the principal’s office,” she said. “We wanted students to think of us as a place to come for help of all kinds. I’ve loved that Sewanee is a place [where] you can dream big . . . where you can find willing partners and turn those big ideas into reality.”
At UTPB, Spurlock will serve as Vice President for Student Development and Leadership, which includes an appointment as an assistant professor in the College of Education. She will also work with the John Ben Shepperd Public Leadership Institute. Her “charge,” as she describes it, is “to advance career development and internships, leadership, and the student experience.”
“I care deeply about all of those areas and am thrilled to work on the intersection of all three,” she said.
UTPB serves first generation students, a population that Spurlock is “committed to,” and is also a Hispanic Serving Institution, with at least 25% of its full-time undergraduates being Latinx. She is looking forward to being “a part of their mission to serve the people of West Texas.”
Since joining Student Life at Sewanee in 2014, Spurlock has co-chaired the First Generation Working Group, led revisions of orientation programs, and developed the curriculum and teaching in the Center for Leadership. To address students’ transportation needs, she brought ZipCar to campus and launched the Sunday Shuttle. The credit for the popular Vice-Chancellor’s Late Night Pancake Breakfast also goes to Spurlock.
“I appreciate Becky’s high level of professionalism, her willingness to take on tough tasks, and most of all, her constant care for students,” Dean of Students Marichal Gentry (C’89) said in a recent email to the student body. “We will miss her and wish her and her family all the best as they head back to the Lone Star State.”
When asked about the biggest difference that they have seen occur during their time on the Mountain, Skomp cited the University’s Project on Slavery, Race, and Reconciliation, stating that the work “holds tremendous symbolic and direct significance; what is gleaned from continued critical examination of the past can help to chart the institution’s future course.”
Spurlock notes the upward trajectory of student involvement in the community.
“They are asking more directly for changes, and participating in the development of new ideas, programs, policies, building development, and hiring,” she said. “Keep going, students!”
Both Skomp and Spurlock stated that they will miss the natural beauty of the Domain as well as the community relationships that they have fostered. But the community will certainly miss them too.
“They constantly pushed Sewanee as a whole to be better,” said Yousra Hussain (C’22). “Although they’re leaving, the mark they’ve made will stay with us forever.”