Professor Named American Council on Education Fellow

Phillis George among 52 higher education leaders included in prestigious national program

Phillis George, UM assistant chair and associate professor of higher education, is among 52 college and university leaders inducted as 2021 fellows of the American Council on Education. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi professor has been named a 2021 fellow of the American Council on Education. Phillis George, assistant chair and associate professor of higher education, is among 52 college and university leaders inducted into the 2021-22 class of the national academy.

Launched in 1965, the ACE fellows program is considered the gold standard regarding higher education leadership development.

“Being selected as an ACE fellow is very humbling and simultaneously inspiring,” George said. “You recognize immediately that you are a part of a long-standing tradition and community of excellence in higher education leadership.

“The ACE fellows program has existed since 1965, and over 80% of ACE fellows have served in senior and executive leadership roles.”

George learned of the program in graduate school at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

“I was working in the Office of the Provost and shared my office with an ACE fellow,” she said. “Since then, I’ve developed deep respect and appreciation for the program and its overall mission of preparing current and emerging leaders ‘to take on real-world challenges and serve the capacity-building needs of institutions.'”

George’s recognition is a major professional achievement, UM Chancellor Glenn Boyce said.

“It is a tremendous point of pride for our entire university that one of our esteemed faculty members, Dr. Phillis George, was chosen for the ACE fellows program, the longest-running education leadership development program in the country,” Boyce said. “Her selection for this prestigious fellowship reflects her outstanding leadership, talent and dedication to growth and improvement.

“We are excited for the opportunity this provides her to gain career-enriching experience in leadership, innovation and problem-solving.”

David Rock, Ole Miss education dean, said the fellowship is also an honor for the school.

“This is an outstanding honor for her and for the School of Education,” Rock said. “This program will allow her to work collaboratively with other fellows in her elite cohort and learn from incredible mentors and leaders at the host university where she will complete an intensive internship.

“Furthermore, we are confident that she will share all she learns and the skill sets she develops in support of enhancing diversity of the professoriate to better serve our students and academic programs at the University of Mississippi.”

As a member of the fellows cohort, George will be immersed in the study and practice of higher education leadership. During periodic visits throughout the academic year, she will experience the organizational culture, systems and policies, and decision-making practices of another institution.

“I am very interested in learning about best and high-impact practices regarding faculty development and diversification,” she said. “This includes strategic initiatives like cluster hiring, as well as talent identification and/or opportunity programs that can assist with future faculty mentoring and development needs.

“Through immersive learning and applied leadership experiences, the ACE fellowship will help further my knowledge and understanding of institutional strategies and opportunities to promote and support faculty development and diversification efforts here at UM.”

George is also a fellow in the 2020-21 Education Policy Fellowship Program, a national 10-month professional development program for emerging and mid-level leaders. EPFP is a part of the national Institute for Educational Leadership, which combines regular meetings and activities specific to state-based site programs with policy events of national scope.

“The goal is to equip fellows with the skills and knowledge needed to facilitate educational policy development, implementation, and advocacy at local, state and federal levels,” George said. “My experience as an EPFP fellow has and continues to be rewarding and will serve as a great complement to the ACE fellowship.”

George oversees the university’s new minor in higher education and conducts research on issues of access and equity in college student retention and graduation, service-learning and civic engagement, curriculum design, and college teaching and learning.

A native Mississippian, she earned her doctorate in educational leadership and policy analysis from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and a master’s degree in sociology from Oxford University in England. George joined the Ole Miss faculty in 2014 as an assistant professor and was recently promoted to associate professor.

Her background includes academic/student affairs administration, program evaluation and assessment, and Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges institutional accreditation, having formerly served as a Quality Enhancement Plan director for the association.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, ACE deferred the 2020-21 class of fellows, understanding that the fellowship would be affected as leaders grappled with the unexpected challenges imposed by the crisis.

Despite the deferral, the program maintained engagement through topical virtual sessions and small-group meetings with fellows program team members and program sages, which included retired college and university presidents. These fellows will join the new group selected for the 2021-22 class.

The combined 2021-22 class represents the diversity of American higher education institutions by gender, race/ethnicity, institution type and disciplinary background.

For more about the ACE fellows program, click here. For information on the UM Department of Higher Education, visit here.