University Park, IL,
16:53 PM

Dr. Beverly Schneller: Elevating the academic experience

Headshot of a smiling woman wearing a gray blazer

By Laura Pohl, Contributing Writer

Since joining Governors State University (GovState) in March 2022, Dr. Beverly Schneller, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, has forged ahead with initiatives that continue to elevate the University’s academic experience and reputation. 

“We’re on a solid trajectory of accomplishments, and they’re tangible and visible,” said Schneller. “When you attract good people, they’re ready to move quickly and get things done.” 

Her vision for academic excellence at GovState has resulted in accomplishments on several fronts: hiring new leadership, including four deans; overseeing accreditation; opening the door for Fulbright scholars; and establishing both the Dr. Curtis J. and Mrs. Gina Crawford Honors College and new College of Graduate Studies. Other areas of progress include expanded support for student/faculty research and planning a forward-looking digital learning conference. The new Social Justice building underway represents another important accomplishment, she said. 

The Crawford Honors College infrastructure and its naming gift will allow GovState to build on the successes of the last decade while creating a unit to more effectively manage honors education, including its curriculum, physical space and college advising. “I’m confident that it will boost the profile of honors education at Governors State,” said Schneller. The University is already recruiting the first class of “Crawford Scholars” for the Crawford Honors College.

The new College of Graduate Studies will also build on existing operations. It will promote education, uphold excellence in graduate studies, and address specific challenges of graduate student recruitment, advising, and management of graduate assistantships and capstone projects.

Plans are also taking shape for developing Strategy 2030. “I’ve asked the chair of the Faculty Senate, Dr. Stephen Wagner, to cochair the strategic plan with me,” said Schneller. The new Strategy 2030 plan will be presented to the Board of Trustees in February 2025 along with the concluding results of Strategy 2025. 

Schneller has worked hard to build GovState’s academic leadership team. Dr. Tim Harrington is Associate Provost and Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs and another associate provost position remains open. She hired Dr. Jan Figa as Dean of the University Library and Dr. Robert Stanley as Executive Director of Institutional Research. Among other important assessment duties, Stanley helped oversee the mid-cycle review for re-accreditation of GovState by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). 

The process included a self-study of key analytics, an extensive written report and campus visit by HLC representatives on February 26-27. “I was especially happy with the level of campus participation,” Schneller said. “We had 60 people involved in establishing the five criteria. The entire report was available to everyone to review—I believe in transparency. And this is a model we’ll use for the next strategic plan.” Schneller was also pleased that people could participate both in-person and virtually during the HLC team’s visit to campus. The University should receive the mid-cycle report in May, she said. 

Individual program reviews attest to the quality of the University’s academic degrees. “We continue to receive consistently good accreditation reports,” Schneller added. 

Upcoming events include a first-ever digital learning conference, scheduled for March 22. “We conducted research in 2022 and 2023 asking students how they want their courses delivered, and there’s strong interest in hybrid and online courses, especially in grad programs,” said Schneller. “At this event, we’ll take a deep dive into our digital learning plan and also talk about AI tools.” 

Faculty and deans will discuss what digital learning tools they need “to be more capable and responsible,” Schneller said, in preparation for budget hearings in April.

And Schneller envisions collaborations with international scholars thanks to the designation of GovState as a Fulbright Visiting Scholars site. The University is pursuing an international scholar—perhaps in supply chain logistics—as visiting faculty in the future.

“When I first met President (Cheryl) Green, I could tell that the University was going to continue to be successful under her vision for excellence and growth,” said Schneller. “The University as a whole – faculty, deans, staff – have a strong commitment to student success. It’s not just lip service here.”