Making connections with assistant provost Jeni Wyatt

On September 26, Jeni Wyatt, Ed.D. began her new role at Lenoir-Rhyne as the university’s first assistant provost for undergraduate education, ready to help prepare the university for a challenging and rewarding future.

Jeni Wyatt

“Right now, I’m focused on getting familiar with all the resources here, so I can know where my ideas and experience can be used most effectively,” Wyatt shared.

After almost 20 years with Appalachian State University, making a move to a new campus and a new position might have been daunting, but Wyatt felt little hesitation after conversations with the administration at LR.

“Leadership is so very important to staff, faculty and students, and I think there is strong leadership here,” commented Wyatt.

She was also drawn in by the flexibility and accessibility of campus resources — especially the connections between students and faculty.

“I think when you’re a smaller school you have a closer connection to what’s going on with students. It’s a real strength to have faculty very involved in what’s going on because they’re the backbone of the academic experience.”

As the university’s inaugural assistant provost for undergraduate education, Wyatt’s focus is on academics, so she anticipates working closely with academic programming and curriculum as well as overseeing operations for the registrar’s office.

“The registrar’s office has an outstanding staff with lots of longevity. I’ll be working with them to think through processes and find ways that I — and the academic affairs office — can better support them.”

As the former senior director of transfer admissions and engagement at Appalachian State, another piece of Wyatt’s role at LR will be working with the Office of Admission, using her experience to help transfer students find a close connection with the university.

“I think the transfer piece has been a challenge here, as it is for a lot of institutions. There are also some great outreach programs — like the partnership with Catawba Valley Community College where students live on campus and are co-enrolled — so we also have a lot of flexibility to appeal to transfer students.”

In her previous position, Wyatt oversaw every part of the transfer admission process from outreach to prospective students, through applications, to the transition to a new campus structure and into life after graduation.

“Consistent support is important because it’s a hard transition for transfer students. You want to provide a lot of events and assistance to get them connected to campus, other students and faculty.”

Wyatt knows something about moving to new locations and making connections — it’s how she got into higher education in the first place.

“I kind of fell into adult education. I had just completed my undergraduate degree from UNC Asheville in psychology and gotten married. My husband was in the military, so we were moving very often,” said Wyatt, who earned a master’s degree in community counseling from Western Carolina University and a doctorate in adult and community college education from North Carolina State University.

During one of those location reassignments, she took a job working with enlistees who wanted to earn their GED diplomas. While stationed in Hawaii, she did the same for guards in the prison system before moving on to teach at the community college level and then into university administration. “I loved teaching the adults. Who knew I was going to love that?” she chuckled.

This range of experience gives Wyatt the flexible thinking and innovative problem-solving that will help Lenoir-Rhyne move into the future as demographics for college attendance continue to shift due to population numbers, budgets and job markets.

“We want to think about ways to attract and serve students from a lot of populations—traditional first-year undergrads, transfer students, international students, adult students—because we offer a lot of support and opportunity here.”

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