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President’s Council

Averett University’s President’s Council is the administrative team consisting of the University President and her Vice Presidents, who oversee all functions and operations of the University.


Dr. Tiffany M. Franks
President

Stop any Averett student anywhere — the airfield, the horse stables, the nursing school, the athletics center … any classroom or residence hall. Ask them if they personally know the president, Dr. Franks, and 99 out of 100 will tell you this: “Of course! She’s at almost every event. Not only that, I’ve even had dinner with her and her husband, in the president’s house!”

That’s because every student is invited to do that, usually in groups of 16, in their first year at Averett. It gives them a real sense of belonging, of fitting in, of being recognized and appreciated.

It gives them, in other words, tangible evidence of being a valued member of The Averett Family.

The experience, meaningful as it is to each student, also affords Dr. Franks the opportunity to ask serious questions and get helpful answers about life as a student at Averett University.

Dr. Franks does this, year after year, because she wants to get to know each student and to learn about how things are working in the eyes of those who matter most— the students.

Besides, she’ll always point out, “You WANT to be with our students!”

Her genuine enthusiasm and love for Averett’s students are apparent always, and certainly at athletic game times. At the really big moments, such as when going for a championship, she and her husband, Joe, have been known to take to the field or the floor and lead the crowd in cheers.

They do the same at tailgating time before events. Literal as well as figurative cheerleaders.

Dr. Franks is inspired daily by the passion of the entire Averett Family; she feeds it and feeds off it. She always tells prospective students to come, visit, see for themselves the diversity, the caring attitude, the family feeling that Averett exudes.

She says: “If you’re considering enrolling, come talk to us in person. Let us tell you how we can help you accomplish your dreams. Let us show you how we give a highly personal education, how we provide the best net of support possible all around you. Come see that it’s right. If it is, we’ll work with you to make it happen.”

That can-do attitude is hers, all day, every day. It infuses the whole faculty, the staff, the administration … Averett, top to bottom, is focused on one thing — the success of its students. And the catalyst and chief inspiration is its president, Dr. Tiffany Franks.

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Dr. Tiffany McKillip Franks has more than 33 years of senior-level administrative experience in higher education in a broad range of areas including student affairs, enrollment management and advancement. She received a doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania; a Master of Science in Education from The Ohio State University; and a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration from Ohio Dominican University. She was inaugurated as Averett President in 2008.


Don Aungst
Vice President & Chief Financial & Operating Officer

Averett University Vice President & Chief Financial & Operating Officer Don Aungst isn’t bashful about approaching students (he does it almost every day) and asking outright — “How’s your time at Averett been?” or “How’s the bookstore for you?”

Sometimes he’ll lead with, “How do you like the food here?” or “How are your classes? How is your residence hall — how’s the housekeeping?”

He’ll ask to join a table of AU footballers at mealtime. Or a table of dance team members or Chemistry majors. Old students, young, artistic, military, international … all students get his attention. That’s how he learns.

He does this because, as he puts it, “The students are the reason we’re here.” And as the person in charge of all the University’s finances, he wants to make sure that the students are getting full value, with all intended services, for their money.

“I was a first-generation college student,” he says, “and I know personally how dramatically a college education can change a life. I sense that our students know that, and their families do, too.”

Other private, liberal arts colleges and universities also claim that their faculty and staff put students first, that each student matters. What makes Averett different?

“That’s easy,” he says. “The difference is, we mean it. We eat it, live it, sleep it every day. This is not lip service. Averett’s mission and value statements — proclaiming that we exist for our students’ success — those are the real reasons we’re here. I am astounded by the faculty and staff members here: We walk the walk.”

He offers some very practical advice: “If you’re considering enrolling at Averett, you need to come here and kick the tires [so to speak]. Visit in person, and you’ll know right away that the people here who are offering to help you succeed in life are sincere.”

He adds this: “If you visit, and if you enroll, then you have to do the work. We’ll all help you, but you must do the work. Because if you do, you’ll succeed. You will have a better, more productive and rewarding life. Period.”

Weekends are a special time for him to get student feedback. He uses a magnet to initiate the connections — his rescued French Bulldog named Cooper. “I take him for a walk around campus whenever I need a break, and students always come rushing over to meet him. He would be very disappointed if they didn’t.”

All those interactions lead to more student feedback — about all aspects of the student experience — which he uses to forge more operational efficiencies and to provide students the best return on their investment … the dream of every CFO/COO.

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In 1977, Mr. Don Aungst earned the Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting with an additional concentration in Computer Science from Shippensburg University, in Pennsylvania. A certified public accountant, he has served as a higher education CFO and/or COO for more than 35 years. Throughout his career he also has served on various boards, including as a member of the National Association of College and University Business Officers from 2005 to 2007; as president of the Eastern Association of College and University Business Officers board from 2006 to 2007; and as board member of Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Risk Management Inc. from 1989 to 2006. He joined Averett in 2020.


Dr. Timothy E. Fulop
Vice President for Academic Affairs

“I went up on a training flight with one of our aviation students,” says Averett Vice President Dr. Tim Fulop,” and when we leveled out I asked the student what her lesson for the day was. She said, ‘You see that this plane has two engines? My lesson today is to kill one of those.’”

“Excuse me?” he said, trying to keep his voice from quivering.

“Yes,” she said, “and then to fly and land the plane with just one engine working. You know — so I can do that if we ever lose an engine while in the air.”

Fortunately, the student succeeded. But the lesson illustrates the very real challenges Averett’s Aeronautics majors face … even with a VP on board. It also demonstrates how Dr. Fulop is “very much a supporter for the more personal educational experience.” That’s one reason he appreciates the faculty at Averett — because they all work every day to be as personal and as helpful as possible.

Dr. Fulop takes great joy from watching faulty members during each graduation ceremony: “You can SEE the pride on their faces as their students — who have done the work and are now true success stories — walk across the stage to receive their diplomas.”

He gives credit to the liberal arts for that success, for liberating students. “Some come to us from difficult backgrounds and very limited resources,” he says, “and we help them free themselves from any restrictive identities and assumptions. We help them discover new potentials, new achievements, new selves.

“Our job is to help them get engaged. Let them discover the power of the mind, help them experience the joy and value of community service.”

The son of missionary parents, Dr. Fulop was born in Japan and lived there his first 13 years. Coming to the U.S. meant diving into a completely different culture, and he appreciates the value of that: “Take the plunge. At Averett, you will be known personally by faculty and staff, and you’ll be given opportunities that you would not have at a larger school. If you enroll here, you’ll be able to try things in areas that are completely new to you, things that we offer you even if you have no background in them.”

He points out that Averett, as a small, church-related liberal arts institution, is not about the money. The goal is not to attract the wealthy elite. The goal is to provide educational experiences that transform, that engage.

“That’s why I love it; that’s why I look forward to work each day.”

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Dr. Timothy Fulop has 23 years of experience as both an accomplished academic administrator and a distinguished professor. Prior to joining the Averett administration, he served as dean of the faculty and senior vice president for academic affairs at Mount Aloysius College in Cresson, Pennsylvania, and as dean of the college, vice president for academic affairs and professor of religion at William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri. Dr. Fulop earned a B.A. in Philosophy from Wheaton College, an M.A. and a Ph.D. from Princeton University and an M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary. He joined Averett in 2014, and oversees all academic operations — including those of the Averett Online Program.


Stacy Gato
Vice President for Enrollment Management

If you ever need a jolt of positive, a dose of happiness, a dash of fun and some extra belief in your own goodness, spend one minute with Averett Vice President for Enrollment Management Stacy Gato. She definitely will help you, make you feel good again. She’s a full-fledged ray of sunshine.

“I love my job,” she says, “love it.” And she means it. That’s why when you need some enthusiastic positivity, you’ll likely find her dispensing it at Averett. If she’s not available right away, she will get back to you … and she’s worth a wait.

How did Averett hire this kind, caring, upbeat and always-helpful woman? “I did my first job search in 15 years,” she says, “and I started with the A’s … Averett. The job description read like it was written from my resume. And when I did a phone interview with President Tiffany Franks, I was just floored. She is IT, the real deal.

“Dr. Franks’ deep and genuine passion for Averett’s students was nothing short of amazing. I had to be a part of that. When I hung up,” she says with a laugh, “I told my husband, if I receive an offer, I sure do hope you’ll join me!”

Probably the main reason she is so committed to Averett is that she feels very few other schools actually put the students at the center of every major decision the institution makes: “Others might say it, but they don’t know how to do it [she pauses a moment] as well as we do. And they don’t always commit the same amount of resources into making sure that each student is successful.”

She can give you specifics about that commitment; she is a true numbers person, tracking what works and what doesn’t: “Yes, I am a data geek. And you know why? Because it is impossible to quantify feelings — passion and commitment. If you want to track your progress, you need hard data. So we do that, and we learn from it every day.

“The numbers reflect our actions, showing what we do to recruit those who belong here, how we intervene for enrolled students who might be in trouble academically … and that we do everything possible to be sure that students stay here and work successfully.

“Hitting the numbers — meeting the goals that we established — that’s deeply rewarding because we all do it together. It definitely is a whole-campus effort … and our students appreciate it, while they’re here and after they graduate. We’re lucky to be part of that.”

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Ms. Stacy Gato has 25 years of experience in enrollment leadership, most recently serving as the executive director of university admissions at the University of New England. She holds two bachelor’s degrees from Saint Joseph’s College. She began her role at Averett in 2013, and oversees all enrollment management and admissions, partnership development and all operations of Averett’s Graduate and Professional Studies Program.


Dr. Venita Mitchell
Vice President of Student Engagement and Senior Student Experience Officer

If you watch Dr. Venita Mitchell walk — into an Averett athletic event, perhaps, or leaving her office … anywhere, really — you’ll immediately see her as a leader, a professional, and a bright and kind person.

That’s a lot to notice from just a bit of walking, but she has such confidence, awareness and dedication that it only takes you a moment to feel all that.

This is a Vice President who arrived at Averett needing to set up offices, and she chose her current location because, as she puts it, “It’s in an area heavily traveled by students. And that’s why we’re here, to understand and serve all of our students.”

There is no question that she and her team work nonstop to develop Averett students into involved, engaged, active learners who are invested as fully as possible into activities outside the classroom … all to support what they do in the classroom.

“Students spend a great deal of time and money here, and it’s a very important investment in their future selves. We work to maximize their return on that investment.”

She goes to as many student activities as possible, and she often eats lunch with students. Not the same ones, either: “I try to move around so I can meet and learn about all kinds of students. And it’s great,” she says, “in that they’re always welcoming, eager to let me join them and then to let me learn about their experiences here, their individual Averett stories.”

The students are impressive, she says. “One of the main reasons I chose to join Averett is the diversity it offers in its student body, with demographics that cover the whole range of students. And because we have representation from so many ages and ethnicities and countries — and because so many are first-generation students — they tend to be very welcoming, eager to help each other.”

That kind of camaraderie and openness are important, she adds: “Averett students are very community-oriented, showing that they genuinely care about other students’ experiences. They’re very goal-oriented, they’re not here frivolously. They truly want to create the best possible experiences for each other, and that’s where my team and I are eager to help.”

Her message to those who are considering enrolling at Averett is a simple one: “We are committed to your unique experiences — we are here to help you develop in the ways that are the very best for you.”

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Dr. Venita Mitchell has more than three decades of experience in higher education administration, most recently serving as vice president and dean of student life for 18 years at William Woods University (Fulton, MO). She earned a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis from the University of Missouri and both a Master of Science in Recreation, Parks and Tourism and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University. She joined Averett in July 2021.


Meg Stevens
Vice President and Director of Athletics and Campus Operations

If you’re a student-athlete at Averett University, you know Athletic Director Meg Stevens. You know her, you pay attention to her, you probably love her and you certainly respect her.

This woman is a force of nature. She never stops, and everything she does is aimed at one goal only: student success.

As a nationally recognized athlete and coach, Stevens is both immediately likeable and relentlessly competitive. And she quickly tells each new student-athlete what they need to accomplish to fit her definition of successful: “I want only two things from you,” she explains, “a degree and conference ring.”

She also adds that she wants them in that order. The degree is why you’re here, she says. You must succeed in the classroom. That is the priority. Athletics is a very close second, but it always comes second. She wants you to focus first on earning the degree, then the conference ring.

Meg Stevens does everything that needs doing at the athletic campus, from affixing the athletics logo onto light posts to directing traffic at big events. She supervises all the coaches, she raises funds for all the athletic programs … all of the sports comprise her domain. And it all follows a program she inaugurated (and spreads to other colleges nationwide), called the 3-2-1 concept.

“Here’s the 3-2-1 vision for the Athletic Department,” she explains. “As an Averett student-athlete, you need to maintain a 3.0 or better GPA in the classroom, get your team to finish in the top 2 in the conference, and treat all of Averett as 1 Team.”

The first two are self-explanatory; the third, that “1 Team” thing, means her athletes are not to live solely in the world of their own sport. She has them attend competitions held by the other sports; attend lectures outside their major; get highly involved in community work; go to the Averett theatre to watch plays and musical performances; get involved in student government and other campus organizations … in other words, help make Averett University 1 Team, 1 Family.

If you wonder whether her world is right for you, whether the 1 Team (Averett) is right for you, she offers — not surprisingly — very good advice: “Do not choose your college by its online presence. A virtual tour is not enough. Do not commit years of your life to some school just because a relative or a friend pushes you there.

“Whether you are an athlete or not, your job is to find the school that is the right fit for You. And in that process, you have to visit. Go to as many places as you can. There is a FEEL here at Averett, and you need to be here physically to experience it, to see if that feel is the right one for you.”

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Ms. Meg Stevens has almost 20 years of experience as a collegiate coach and athletic director, including an 11-year stint as head women’s lacrosse coach at Buffalo State (the State University of New York – Buffalo), where she was named the U.S. Lacrosse Regional Coach of the Year in 2004 and where she also served as assistant athletic director. She earned the Bachelor of Science degree from SUNY – Cortland with a major in Recreation and Leisure Management and the Master of Science degree from SUNY College – Buffalo with a major in Student Personnel Administration. She joined Averett University as director of athletics in 2013.


John Vigouroux
Chief Entrepreneurship and Innovation Officer

You’ll definitely never meet anyone else like John Vigouroux. His successes in businesses all around the world are astounding, his insights and energy are nonstop … and his story? That’s the best part — it begins and ends at Averett University.

“My mom was on food stamps when I got recruited to play soccer at Averett,” he says. “The Averett coach made the trip to Coram, Long Island, to watch a teammate of mine play.

“It was so cold we were playing indoors, and he saw the other kid and me at the same time. This was on a rare day when I wasn’t hurt, and it went well. The coach and I talked, I filled out the financial form with all zeroes, and he offered me a bus ticket to visit the college.”

That visit was all it took. “I got to the campus, and I did not want to leave,” he says. “Back then almost all the students were female; that was a definite plus. And the food — three square meals a day. Every day. That was a first for me. Throw in soccer and I was set for life. Heaven on Earth.”

He thrived at Averett: He was class president his freshman, junior and senior years, and he did indeed play soccer, scoring 64 goals while playing on the 1978-1982 nationally ranked (Top 5, Division III) soccer team.

Although he has worked for Fortune 500 companies, he’s discovered his real calling is the world of entrepreneurism. That’s why his position at Averett, he says, “Should be and is the best job of my life. I’ve done nothing this exciting before. I’m working with young people and interesting adults and bringing my whole life into it. I get to do meaningful things with kids, I get to talk [he says with a laugh] about things I’ve done wrong … this job is fantastic.”

He’s on a mission to help Averett students understand the reach and power of entrepreneurship — establishing a business of your own.

“Education,” he maintains, “is cradle to grave in entrepreneurship. Two of every three jobs worldwide either already are or soon will be entrepreneurial.”

And at Averett, “You don’t need to have great idea to be an entrepreneur, just curiosity and a shared passion.”

He explains that entrepreneurism at Averett is designed to help you figure out — in a safe environment — what your passion is.

“Just come see me,” he tells students, “and I’ll do my best to get you involved with a company that will give you real-life experiences both at Averett and beyond.”

Does that mean internships? Yes and no. “Many schools offer internships,” he says, adding “We offer pursuit of passion.”

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Mr. John Vigouroux earned the Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Behavior and Development, French and Spanish from Averett University in 1982. As an eight-time president and CEO, John Vigouroux has successfully piloted three Nasdaq companies, three venture-backed global software organizations and two big data/artificial intelligence software incubators. As CEO, he has overseen sales and support offices in two dozen countries; he established and ran technology development centers in the U.S., the United Kingdom, India, France, Israel, Romania, Bulgaria, New Zealand and Taiwan. He joined Averett as Chief Entrepreneurship and Innovation Officer in 2020.


Melissa Wohlstein
Vice President of Philanthropy

You would think that someone who is in charge of raising money for a university — of identifying students’ dreams and then finding the resources to make them come true — you would expect someone dedicated to such a vocation to be both kind and approachable, yes?

Averett University Vice President of Philanthropy Melissa Wohlstein is definitely that, and you sense it the minute you meet her.

“I feel lucky to be with Averett,” she explains, “because it’s a place with real heart.” That’s important to her — that she works within a community that has a very human connection.

“We comprise a real family at Averett,” she says, “so in those times when we have to work beyond the immediate mission [think pandemic, for instance], we do it for our family, for our Averett.”

On a daily basis, she works “to join the rest of the family in striving to make just a little difference, to go in a direction that will help that one student, to connect the right people to make things better for all our students.”

She has served in higher education for decades, but she says that she has never before experienced the camaraderie and dedication to students’ welfare and success that she sees at Averett: “This atmosphere is amazing, in that we have enormous support — from the University’s president, its Board members, all of our dedicated faculty and staff members … even the city of Danville and the whole Dan River region.

“All of those elements work together for Averett to create new programs, new technologies, new buildings and innovative student experiences. It is constantly supportive, encouraging, empowering.”

And it means that Averett’s students sense the genuine support: “What sets us apart is that you’re going to go to a university where you can spread your wings … but if one breaks, people will flock around you and lift you to achieve whatever your dreams might be.”

Not only that, but she also says that support is there for online students as well as for on-campus students.

“Our commitment and concern are real,” she says, “and the students see it. They know it’s authentic. It’s not just smoke and mirrors; it’s the real deal.”

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Ms. Melissa Wohlstein earned a Master of Public Administration degree from University of Central Florida and a Bachelor of Arts degree from The University of Alabama with a major in Theater and a minor in English. Overseeing the areas of alumni affairs; marketing and communications; and all aspects of fundraising (advancement services, capital campaigns, etc.), she joined Averett in her current position in February 2021.