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Chavis, Simmons Receive Provost’s Office Promotions

By Edwin B. Smith

University of Mississippi

Virginia Rougon Chavis and Jennifer Simmons

Two University of Mississippi faculty members have been promoted to executive positions in the Office of the Provost.

Virginia Rougon Chavis and Jennifer Simmons have been named associate provost and assistant provost, respectively. They will assist Noel Wilkin, provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, in supervising personnel and supporting office operations.

“Both Dr. Chavis and Ms. Simmons are highly qualified to serve in their respective positions,” Wilkin said. “Each brings her own unique experiences and expertise to enhance and expand her respective role. I am excited about the contributions they will make to the Office of the Provost and the University of Mississippi.”

Chavis served as chair of the Department of Art and Art History for almost seven years. She also served on the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College Council and the Honors Selection Committee, and was selected as an SEC Academic Leadership Development Program fellow.

“I enjoy working with people and talking to them,” Chavis said. “I enjoy solving problems, coming up with the best solution and seeing things through the eyes of others.”

Her short-term goals are to make improvements to some of the things she learned over the past year as acting associate provost, including providing structured opportunities for administrators to have conversations about addressing challenges and celebrating accomplishments in their units.

Chavis also plans to continue monthly chair and director workshops and include interactive exercises on the agenda along with the regular announcements.

“I am working to create a yearlong curriculum for new chairs,” she said. “This curriculum will equip those new administrators with the resources and contacts they need to be provide successful leadership within their own units. 

“Lastly, I have been working with the Counseling Center on campus to address their needs to help individuals on campus. The need for mental health care is important to the health of all individuals on campus.”

Chavis’s long-term goals include addressing the lack of space on campus, creating a pathway for personnel to advance professionally and expanding the Early Learning Program to fruition.

“It is important to note that last year, the first Provost Faculty Research Scholar for Institutional Transformation was selected,” she said. “This new position supports the expansion of university efforts to build a collaborative research team dedicated to the efforts of diversity, equity and inclusion.”

Simmons earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education and her master’s in higher education from the University of Southern Mississippi. A member of the Ole Miss faculty since 2002, she has served on numerous academic and administrative committees.

Simmons said she believes her perspective is somewhat unique since she has worked in both student affairs and academic affairs.

“My former position in the School of Journalism and New Media was a student affairs-type role in an academic unit,” she said. “I understand what it takes to get students to attend UM and what it takes to get them to graduate from UM. 

“I want to be a listening ear to be someone who can become a valuable resource to students and faculty by answering questions and providing guidance on concerns they may have.”

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