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Press Release



January 10, 2018

CHAPEL HILL – The University of North Carolina System has announced three 2019 Faculty Fellows, who will spend one year researching academic affairs. The fellows are Ellen Holmes Pearson, UNC Asheville; Benjamin Powell, Appalachian State University; and Katherine R. Saul, NC State University.

Now in its fourth year, the fellowship engages experienced faculty who are specifically interested in academic affairs issues. The program gives these faculty mentored learning opportunities and recruits them to enhance the effectiveness of the UNC System, both at the System Office and at the institutional level.  Fellows are offered a unique opportunity to become familiar with System-wide, state, and national challenges in public higher education.  This year, the UNC System Office selected digital learning as the focus of the project and invited faculty from all 17 institutions to apply. 

The 2019 Digital Learning Project will provide an opportunity for fellows to assist in introducing new strategies to the teaching and learning environment.  They will be immersed in investigating and charting opportunities for faculty to take full advantage of new digital learning environments.  The fellows will review the current literature, consult with innovative teaching faculty across the System and across the national higher education landscape, and will investigate, and experiment with, new technologies.

“I am thrilled to welcome the 2019 Faculty Fellows who will bring varied perspectives from their classrooms and campuses to apply to our digital learning technologies,” said UNC System President Margaret Spellings. “In our ongoing efforts to increase access, the System will benefit from Drs. Pearson, Powell, and Saul spending the year evaluating and applying new ideas during this year that will bear fruit for years to come.”

(Pictured from left to right are Drs. Pearson, Powell, Saul)

Pearson serves as a professor of history at UNC Asheville. She graduated summa cum laude from Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama, and earned her Master of Arts degree from the University of New Orleans and her doctorate from Johns Hopkins University. Pearson is a former recipient of the UNC Board of Governors’ Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2012 and is the 2018-2019 UNC Asheville Ruth and Leon Feldman Professor for Service, in recognition of distinguished service in a variety of roles at the university.

Powell is an associate professor of entrepreneurship at Appalachian State University. He earned an AB in chemistry from Princeton University, an MBA from Kenan Flagler School of Business Administration at UNC-Chapel Hill, and an MA and Ph.D. in management from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.  Before pursuing an academic career, he helped start Milliken & Company’s composite fabrics division and an environmental marketing research company in Bangkok, Thailand. Powell serves on Appalachian’s advisory board for its learning management system and on the Walker College of Business online task force.

Saul earned her ScB in engineering from Brown University and her MS and Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Stanford University.  An associate professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at NC State, she has won several teaching awards there and recently was elected to the American Society of Biomechanics Executive Board, 2018-2021. 

“The Faculty Fellows play a critical role in helping the UNC System Office respond to the needs of the universities and other institutions across the System,” said Dr. Kimberly van Noort, the senior vice president for Academic Affairs and chief academic officer for the UNC System. “They provide important perspectives on how to address specific issues and develop solutions that will have lasting impact on accelerating student success.  We are fortunate to have three superbly qualitied faculty, from three different institutions, who are willing to work on our important digital learning initiatives during the next year.”

Open to all tenured faculty members with at least three years’ experience at a UNC System institution, Faculty Fellows are selected based upon the strength of their relevant experiences in their academic area—including teaching, research, and leadership activities—and their input as to how they could support the fellowship project for that calendar year.  Since its inception, 13 faculty from nine universities have participated in the program.