Jeff Reese, head of the College of Education’s Department of Special Education, Rehabilitation, and Counseling, has been named as a 2021-22 Provost Fellow at Auburn University. The appointment is part of the SEC Academic Leadership Development Program. Over the course of the academic year, Reese will learn more about the work of administrative colleagues on the Auburn campus and interact with fellows from the other SEC schools.
The SEC Academic Leadership Development Program seeks to identify, prepare and advance academic leaders for roles within SEC institutions and beyond. Reese is joined this year by Auburn fellows Chase Bringardner in Theater and Dance, Lori Hornsby in Pharmacy Practice, and Paul Walz in Pathobiology from the College of Veterinary Medicine. The program has several objectives.
“The Provost Fellows program is designed to help fellows better understand the inner workings of the university,” Reese said. “For example, we have lunch with the provost and spend time with several different higher level administrators who share their roles and answer questions. From these interactions, we learn more about their roles within the university, how these leaders got there, and how they manage their positions.”
Each of the member institutions designs its own program, though each fellow also has an opportunity to visit two other institutions to see how things are done in those unique environments. Reese will visit the University of Georgia and the University of South Carolina, although COVID protocols have so far restricted in-person visits. Typically these visits to other campuses involve three-day workshops for all participants.
Reese came to Auburn from the University of Kentucky, where he was a professor in counseling psychology. His research focuses on psychotherapy, client feedback, and how such feedback impacts the outcome of therapy and the therapeutic relationship. He also served as a department chair there for 4 years. He did not deliberately pursue working in administration.
“For me, leadership kind of just happened,” he said. “My first administrative job was a hybrid faculty/staff position that led to a leadership role at Abilene Christian in Texas. I had some early success with it, and then later at Kentucky I reluctantly agreed to become a department chair. But I have always been intrigued by leadership in both sports and academia. I look at it through a psychology lens. How do we get people to work well together, to be successful? It seems like there are many ways to do that. I try to lead by example rather than being a ‘rah-rah’ guy. But you need some of that, too, so I am working on that and other ways that I need to grow and develop.”
Reese said that his past experiences prepared him well for Auburn, but he also notes that each school is unique.
“These differences between institutions require you to evaluate what works and what doesn’t, what system you have and what it could be. The fellowship program should open you up to new ideas. I think that’s really what it’s all about.”
“I hope it makes me a better leader for my department, for our faculty and students, and for our departmental mission,” he said. “I also want to better serve the university as a whole. I just enjoy learning new things and want to be better at what I do. It’s not very complicated. I’d say this program gives you a glance at what may be out there.”
Before coming to Auburn, Reese worked with a dean at Texas A&M who later became a university president. He said she was low key but also had a presence that commanded respect, and he learned a lot from watching her.
“Obviously I came into a very good situation at Auburn with the College of Education and our SERC Department,” Reese said. “I believed from day one that they were student centered and cared deeply about their programs, and that has turned out to be true. We are all working to nudge each other toward more research but we want to keep our student-centered focus intact.”
“Since being here I have very much appreciated the collaborative nature of our leadership at both the college and university level,” he concluded. “I have benefitted from the willingness to share ideas and the feeling that we are all in this together. That hasn’t been the case everywhere I have been, so we feel very fortunate to be here and be part of what we are trying to do together at Auburn.”