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Press Release

Kelli R. Brown


CHAPEL HILL, NC – The University of North Carolina Board of Governors elected Dr. Kelli R. Brown as the new chancellor of Western Carolina University during a special session of the Board held today. Dr. Brown will assume her new duties on July 1, 2019.

“On behalf of the Board of Governors, I am thrilled to announce the selection of Dr. Kelli R. Brown to lead WCU into the future,” UNC Board of Governors Chair Harry L. Smith, Jr. said. “Western Carolina has seen tremendous growth, particularly now as an NC Promise institution. Now, under Dr. Brown’s leadership, it is poised to see even greater success.”

Brown was selected by UNC System Interim President Bill Roper for approval by the Board of Governors from among three final candidates for the position. These finalists were chosen by a 21-person search committee made up of members from the WCU Board of Trustees along with various stakeholders from WCU, the community, and the region.

“Western Carolina deserves a chancellor with a keen focus on student and faculty success, and Dr. Brown has demonstrated that focus throughout her esteemed academic career,” said Dr. Roper. “I welcome her to the UNC System and look forward to working with Dr. Brown in her new role.”

Brown will succeed WCU’s Chancellor David O. Belcher, who passed away in June 2018 following a two-year battle with brain cancer. Alison Morrison-Shetlar, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, has been serving as as interim chancellor.

Patricia B. Kaemmerling, chair of the WCU Board of Trustees and co-chair of the university’s chancellor search committee, said that Brown emerged as a finalist during a national search that included opportunity for public input from all of Western Carolina University’s various constituencies and fellow members of the Board of Trustees.

 “Dr. Brown distinguished herself as a top candidate in what I would characterize as an extremely deep pool of exceptionally well-qualified potential leaders for our university,” Kaemmerling said. “In addition to her considerable senior leadership experience in academic affairs, Dr. Brown served as interim president of Valdosta State University for much of 2016. I am pleased at the decision by the Board of Governors, and we all look forward to working with our 12th chancellor – and our first permanent female CEO – to build upon the strong foundation in place at WCU.”

Brown most recently served as Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at Georgia College & State University, Georgia’s public liberal arts institution, and has more than 30 years of higher education experience.

“Being selected as the 12th chancellor of this incredible institution is the opportunity of a lifetime. I am impressed by the university’s passionate focus on student success and its ongoing commitment to access while also delivering the absolute highest quality education,” Brown said. “I am inspired by WCU’s efforts to prepare students for life through experiential education and career preparation – especially students from the western region that this university was founded to serve.”

About Kelli R. Brown, Ph.D.

Kelli R. Brown will become Western Carolina University’s 12th permanent chancellor on July 1, 2019, after having served as Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at Georgia College & State University, Georgia’s public liberal arts institution.

At Georgia College, she has led faculty and student success initiatives, including revitalizing a Center for Student Success, centralizing academic advising and increasing the four-year graduation rate by 25 percent. She has supported numerous leadership development programs for faculty and departmental chairs and increased faculty recognition (including awards, and tenure and promotion). In July 2016, Dr. Brown was appointed interim president of Valdosta State University, a regional comprehensive university in southern Georgia. She served in that capacity until a permanent president took office in January 2017, and she then returned to her position at Georgia College. She joined the faculty at Georgia College as a professor in the School of Health and Human Performance in June 2013.

Dr. Brown was interim dean and professor in the College of Health and Human Performance at the University of Florida from 2012 until 2013 and was associate dean for academic affairs there from 2007 until 2012.  She was an ACE Fellow in 2011-12. From July 2003 through June 2006, she was interim dean of the Graduate School at the University of South Florida. Prior to that appointment, she was an active faculty member in the College of Public Health. Before joining the faculty at USF in 1996, she was chairperson of the Department of Health Sciences at Illinois State University for two years. During her seven years at Western Illinois University from 1987 until 1994, she rose through the ranks to become the graduate program coordinator in the Department of Health Sciences and, ultimately, assistant to the dean in the College of Health, Physical Education and Recreation.

Dr. Brown’s research interests include school and community partnerships, prevention (social) marketing, and adolescent and youth health issues. While at USF, she was a co-principal investigator in the University of South Florida’s Prevention Research Center’s program in community-based prevention marketing, and was the Sarasota demonstration project director. She has worked on numerous funded projects in which social marketing has been used in community and school settings. She was the principal investigator for Florida’s statewide social marketing campaign (Florida Cares for Women) to increase breast and cervical cancer screening utilization, and she worked with the Seminole women of Florida in developing culturally appropriate breast and cervical cancer materials.

Dr. Brown has been active in several professional health education organizations. She served as the president of the Society for Public Health Education from 2012 until 2014. SOPHE serves as an independent professional association represented by a diverse membership of nearly 4,000 health education professionals and students throughout the United States and 25 international countries. She was the first female president of Eta Sigma Gamma, health education’s national honorary society. She has been an active member of numerous professional organization boards, and was a board member of the Foundation for the Advancement of Health Education Inc. She was an editorial board member for the Social Marketing Quarterly journal, and was the first co-editor of the Health Promotion Practice’s social marketing and health communication column from 2006-2009. She was the editor of the Journal of School Health, a highly-esteemed peer-reviewed journal for adolescent and school health, from 2008 until 2011. She is an inaugural member of the Pedagogy in Health Promotion: The Scholarship of Teaching & Learning Editorial Board.

She holds a doctorate in education from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale; a master of science and education in public health degree and bachelor of science degree, both from the University of Toledo; and an associate in applied sciences degree in dental hygiene from Michael J. Owens Technical College in Toledo, Ohio.

Dr. Brown has been married to Dennis M. Brown for 30 years.