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.

***

Dr. Tiffany McKillip Franks has more than 29 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.


Dr. Timothy E. Fulop
Vice President for Academic Affairs and Student Success

“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.”

***

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 Graduate and Professional Studies Program — and Student Life/Student Success.


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.”

***

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.


Charles S. Harris
Executive Vice President

Walk down the hall on the second floor of Averett University’s Main Building, and you’ll likely encounter students sitting on a bench outside the office of Executive Vice President Charles Harris.

They haven’t been sent there; they have no appointments with him. They each just hope to grab a moment of his time … his ear, briefly. Why?

“He’s a human GPS, man,” says one. “As you go through life, he can tell you where the potholes are.”

There’s a reason for that — Harris has driven the bus around most of the potholes, so he knows firsthand what to avoid, what to embrace.

At the age of 16, as a student in very rural Mecklenburg County in a town of less than 600 and with some real potholes, he was his own school-bus driver. He needed a job, the school needed a driver. He would get up each morning, drive around picking up other kids, drive them all to school, go to his classes, drive them all home.

He’s very qualified to give advice to students, but that’s not his main job at Averett. Planning, coordinating and orchestrating Averett’s special projects — especially construction and major renovations — that’s what he does mostly.

But when a student reaches out, he’s among the first to be there with assistance. Recently he was asked about a small, silk label on his desk. “Oh, this is from a student who stopped in to check that his attire was perfect before a very special date. I saw the new-suit label still attached to the side of the coat sleeve. That’s a no-no.”

If anyone knows a clothing no-no, it’s Charles Harris. This poised, articulate, caring man is sartorially resplendent at ALL times, setting a perfect example for those who want to dress for success. Beautiful suit and tie all day every day. You get the feeling that to him, “business casual” means using the white-gold cufflinks in your French cuffs instead of the yellow-gold.

He is happiest when those two primary aspects of his job intersect, as happened with the new football stadium. “When you help make something like this happen, it’s always great to drive past it and feel pride of accomplishment. But the best was when two kids I had worked with came back for a football game, saw the stadium they had heard so much about, and came to me with actual tears, saying ‘I had no idea it would be this wonderful.’ That’s the best payoff.”

Not surprisingly, he adds: “This is the best job I’ve ever had, because you can change the arc of someone’s life. It’s an honor.”

***

Mr. Charles Harris previously served as Vice President of Student Services (2007) and Director of Athletics (2004). He has more than 30 years of experience as a university administrator both in public and private institutions, as well as 20 years’ experience serving as a consultant to the private sector. Mr. Harris holds a B.A. from Hampton University. He joined the University in 2004, and began the EVP role in 2009, overseeing corporate governance, strategic planning and major capital projects.


Aaron Howell
Vice President for Business and Finance

Averett University Vice President for Business and Finance Aaron Howell, often described as “a CFO with a personality,” is not opposed to being a bit … different. And he feels that students who are considering enrolling at Averett but fear not “fitting in” should think about it this way — the right college will give you opportunities NOT to fit in. It will show you ways to choose to be a little different, and to benefit from that.

Howell is proud to be at an institution where all of the faculty and all of the staff “truly are student-centered,” he says. “Some students may struggle, but all they have to do is reach out. There really is a ton of support for them here. We all want them to be successful.

“They’re the reason we’re all here,” he adds. “We have an obligation to help them all succeed, starting on day one and continuing throughout their lives. We have people and systems in place to see to that … with early alerts going off if there are problems with any student. The Student Success team, the Student Life staff, the whole enrollment team. We all work to identify and help those who are showing signs of struggle. It’s a massive commitment by both Averett and the students.”

Money for college is often an issue, he knows, even though almost all Averett students receive some form of financial aid. But he sees it this way: With an average student debt nationally at approximately $30,000, he says, you have to ask yourself — how much will I pay for my first car? It could be more than $30,000, and how long will it last? An education never wears out; it keeps on earning more money for you throughout your career.

“And if you are the first in your family to graduate from college,” he adds, “this degree will change the trajectory of your entire life … and your children’s lives, and on and on. Student debt should never be a barrier to something this important, this life-changing.”

He obviously revels in the whole Averett experience: “Where else can you work where every fall you get an influx of excitement, spirit, wonder — kids out on their own for the first time, gaining independence and earning all kinds of life lessons? It’s great to be a part of that.”

***

Mr. Aaron Howell is a Certified Public Accountant, a Certified Public Purchasing Officer and a Certified Purchasing Manager with more than 20 years of experience. Most recently he served as assistant vice president and controller for Oregon State University. Earlier in his career, he worked in state and federal positions, as well as for a private environmental firm. He holds both a B.S. and an MBA from Oregon State University. He joined Averett in 2015, and oversees all administrative, facilities management and finance functions, including financial aid.


Albert “Buddy” Rawley
Vice President for Institutional Advancement

“Yeah, I flunked out of school,” confesses Averett Vice President Buddy Rawley. You betcha. And then Averett gave me a second chance. I took it and ran with it.”

He had enrolled at Virginia Tech, where he played baseball. Had some good times, but he just couldn’t get into the swing of the classes.

“That’s probably one reason I understand what some of our Averett students are going through,” he says. “Some of them are the first in their families to attend college, so the whole process is new to them. And believe me, getting lost among 60,000 other students at a big school is not the answer. I know.”

Former baseball catcher Rawley says that at Averett, 45 percent of the students are athletes, with an unbelievable camaraderie. “They make lifelong friends and future business contacts here, as do the nonathletes. Let’s face it, with only 12-13 in your classes, you’re definitely going to meet and get to know your fellow students.”

He also praises the eye-opening diversity of the classes at Averett. “We get students from all economic and social backgrounds, and a huge number of international students. You’ll be sitting in classes next to people from the Bahamas, Finland, you name it. They open your eyes to parts of the world you never knew about.”

He is confident that an Averett education — his personal ticket to success — will “make a huge difference in your whole life … and that of your family, your own spouse and children. They all will benefit.”

He readily admits that it’s not easy. Students have to do the work. “Many students can use some kind of academic help, and we provide it — our Student Success Center is here with experts just for that purpose, and they have it all. You go to them, and they give you the help you need to succeed.”

That’s academic help, of course. What about financial help? “We are constantly working to find donors to help students, and we’ll do all we can to help you. Talk to us and let us see what things we can do.”

He adds that everyone follows the lead of Averett’s president, with an open-door policy: “If my office door is open, you can come in at any time! All I ask is that you don’t look in my closet.”

There’s probably a used catcher’s mitt in there.

***

Mr. Buddy Rawley has 30 years of corporate and not-for-profit experience of building relationships and fostering the growth of those relationships through interpersonal skills, proactive leadership and service to the constituents for which he is responsible. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Averett University in 1975 and is a graduate of the University of Virginia Darden School of Business Young Managers Program. He began his role at Averett in 2010, overseeing all fundraising and public relations.


Meg Stevens
Director of Athletics

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.”

***

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.


Lesley Villarose
Dean of Students

“I make myself stand in the very back of the room during graduation,” says Averett University Dean of Students Lesley Villarose, “because we need to stay respectfully quiet until the last name is read … but I get so excited at seeing our great students being awarded with a well-deserved diploma, well, I can’t always stifle every shout. So I stand far away, where I won’t be heard.”

She adds that graduation day is “always bittersweet for me. Of course, I’m sad to see them leave us, but also I feel privileged that there are students walking across that stage whom I really have seen grow. I know they’re taking wonderful next steps, going into bright futures.”

Truth is, Dean Villarose is deeply involved in many of those successes, having worked with others on her staff to ensure that all Averett students, no matter what they’re studying, where they’re from or what their plans are … that all of them get any help they need to do the work and succeed.

“For instance,” she says, “if one of them misses class or is in distress in any way, we have people trained and ready to respond, to connect personally and to give the appropriate assistance very quickly.”

It’s only natural that she is very involved — she is, after all, the person in charge of Averett’s counseling services, spiritual life, housing and residential life, as well as all student engagement activities, among other things (including intramural sports, transportation … even the mailroom).

“You know what’s different about Averett students?” she asks. “Unlike other students I’ve worked with at other places, Averett students are, just to put it simply, kind to one another.”

She adds that when she first she visited Averett, she was “impressed by the diversity on campus and by the wonderful atmosphere. I saw no discrimination, no hate … it was a kind place. And equally important, the staff and faculty members were — and certainly still are — happy to be supportive of the students, happy to be able to shape their skills and their lives into all kinds of success stories.”

She sums Averett up this way: “We have people who are personally invested in creating and maintaining a culture of care. That’s what we offer, a culture of care.”

***

Ms. Lesley Villarose earned the bachelor of arts degree in Communications from Lynchburg College and the master of arts degree in Education from Temple University. She has worked in higher education management since 2004, serving at Chestnut Hill College, Philadelphia University and Drexel University. She joined Averett University in 2010, currently serving as dean of students, emergency manager and director of student engagement and leadership development.