Ten new faculty welcomed to the College of Arts & Sciences

Ten new faculty welcomed to the College of Arts & Sciences

This semester Lee University welcomed ten new faculty members to the College of Arts and Sciences Department.

Courtesy of Lee University Media Services

This fall, Lee has welcomed ten new professors to its College of Arts & Sciences, each specializing in a broad range of fields, including sociology, public relations, journalism, cinema, political science, mathematics and organic chemistry.

Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences Dr. Matthew Melton said this year is unique in that the usual number of faculty hired for his college is five or six, this year seeing the addition of double the usual number of new faculty.

The College of Arts & Sciences contains a little over half of Lee’s academic programs, according to Melton.

“The Departments of Behavioral & Social Sciences; Communication Arts; Language & Literature; History, Political Science & Humanities; and Natural Science & Mathematics [include] about 2,000 students and 90 full-time faculty,” Melton said. “Most of the 95% of the general education core is in [the College of Arts & Sciences].”

The Department of Behavioral & Social Sciences is one of three departments with three new faculty members: Dr. Brandon Rodgers, Dr. Jennifer Thomas and Dr. Ruthie Wienk all joined the faculty this semester.

Formerly the Director of Behavioral Health at Siskin Children’s Institute, Rodgers is now an assistant professor of marriage and family therapy at Lee. He has also taught at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine with a combined total of over seven years' worth of pediatric and medical experience.

“[Working at Siskin] was a great opportunity to apply a lot of the skills and training and everything throughout my education, and working with families and children especially,” said Rodgers. “Being able to reach out to families and provide the opportunity of hope, that was a big part of [my time there].”

A key point of Rodgers' motivation to join the faculty at Lee is his desire to repay the excellent education he obtained from his own professors to students in a Christian environment.

“Throughout my time going through school, in the back of my mind I always wanted to come back to a university setting,” Rodgers said. “Specifically here at Lee, it’s a wonderful Christian environment [where I can] integrate that with paying it forward to students and being that person that I had mentor me throughout life.”

Thomas has joined as an assistant professor of school counseling and said she can relate to her students as she attended Lee herself between 2005 and 2011, obtaining her bachelor's and master's degrees in the process.

Thomas said she hopes to become a part of Lee’s community and to reconnect with the faculty after taking time to obtain her doctorate at Regent University and working as a school counselor in the Christian Academy school system. She said she is enthusiastic about her return to Lee on the other side of the classroom.

“I hope to contribute to Lee all of the things it gave to me as a student,” Thomas said. “It’s really cool to be back. Having had this student perspective and being able to come back as a faculty member is kind of surreal sometimes, and it’s just a privilege to be back here.”

Wienk is a new face among the College of Arts & Sciences’ new faculty and is currently teaching as an assistant professor of sociology. She has notably taught English as a Second Language (ESL) in various locales across the globe, including Sudan, Costa Rica and South Korea.

Wienk said she wants to spark a love for sociology among Lee’s students, especially when it comes to applying the things that they have learned in class to the outside world.

“I want the students in my classes to have the critical thinking skills to kind of analyze their own preconceptions about the social world and have better conversations with other people about how the social world functions,” Wienk said.

The Department of Communication Arts has also seen three new editions. Professors John Bland, Kimberly Lyon and Beecher Reuning have all added their talent to the rapidly-growing department.

Bland comes to Lee as a visiting lecturer in public relations after retiring from directing public relations and university communications at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Having been interested in working at Lee for the past several years, Bland said he realized his ambition of joining the staff as a part-time member last year before becoming a full-time faculty member this year.

“I think it’s really a great benefit to be teaching at a private Christ-centered university like Lee,” Bland said. “I get the opportunity to integrate my faith into what I’m teaching, which I really didn’t have the ability to do at a public university.”

Bland said he hopes to aid the faculty to the best of his ability and to strengthen the curriculum in the future during his time teaching at Lee.

Lyon has made the jump from staff, serving as a secretary to Dr. Melton for two years, to faculty, now serving as a visiting lecturer in journalism.

Along with her teaching role, Lyon is the faculty sponsor for the Lee Clarion. Lyon served as a writer and an editor-in-chief for the Lee Collegian, the former student-run newspaper.

“I never thought at the time that I was a student that I would be in this place,” Lyon said. “But it’s very exciting to be a part of the continuing history of Lee. Lee helped me, and now I get to come back, and I get to have the opportunity to continue to help form other students as they go through this process. It’s very exciting.”

Lyon is not the only communication arts professor who once attended Lee as a student. Reuning, now an assistant professor of cinema, earned his bachelor's degree from Lee as well.

“When I came back, I felt like I knew where the school was. I was really excited to just take someone to another level,” Reuning said. “I felt like that whole kind of learning and discovery process—there was still a little bit of it because it’s a new building and some new faces, but in general, I knew the heart of the university, and I knew they’d be behind what I wanted to do.”

Reuning said he hopes to see the expansion of the current digital media cinema emphasis program from an emphasis into a fully-formed cinema major.

“We’re the closest Christian school to the number one filming location in the world that has a cinema program,” Reuning said. “So with that said I think we have an opportunity to have special guests up here a lot, and to get students quickly and automatically logged in to the film industry.”

Like the Department of Behavioral & Social Sciences and the Department of Communication Arts, the Department of Natural Science and Mathematics has seen the addition of three new faculty members: Professor Jennifer Minutolo, Dr. Richard Moy and Dr. Herman Odens.

Minutolo has added her talents to the department as a senior lecturer of mathematics but is not to be confused with her husband Anthony Minutolo, who also teaches as a lecturer in chemistry and physical science.

Jennifer Minutolo obtained her bachelor's degree from Lee, then went to the University of Florida to get her master’s degree before teaching at Cleveland State Community College.

While teaching at Cleveland State, Minutolo married and moved to Maryville, where she commuted for an hour and a half on a daily basis before moving back to Cleveland with her family in 2007.

“Although Lee has changed a lot since I was here,” Jennifer Minutolo said, “it feels like coming home.”

Jennifer Minutolo is currently working to obtain her doctoral degree in computer science and said she is planning on teaching some courses on the topic in the near future.

Moy has joined the faculty as an assistant professor of mathematics, bringing with him his experience gained from teaching at Willamette University and Northwestern University.

“Lee is a place where a lot of people have known each other for a long time among the faculty,” Moy said. “[I] definitely feel like the new kid on the block sometimes, but it’s a very friendly place to be.”

Moy said he applied to many schools on a national level but Lee seemed to suit him best.

“When I met with the math faculty from Lee, they were the most energetic and exciting people that I met in all of my interviews,” Moy said, “and they had really great things to say about the students, so I was really excited.”

Odens has taught at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and Southern Adventist University and is now teaching at Lee as an associate professor of organic chemistry.

Odens said he sees a great amount of opportunity and promise here at Lee, describing it as a high-ranking and flourishing institution. While Odens wants to focus on making his methods of education as cutting-edge as possible, he cited two main goals when discussing his future at Lee.

“[I want to] get along with my colleagues and to earn the hearts of my students,” Odens said.

Odens is looking forward to continuing his career of educating students while at Lee, attributing his current comfort and satisfaction to God’s providence.

“So far I’ve been treated really well here. I’ve felt welcomed by the staff, by the faculty. The students have embraced me,” said Odens. “That really, really touched my heart and made a long-lasting impression so far in me that I was like, ‘Wow, this hasn’t happened in any other school that I have taught.’”

Lastly, Dr. Mark Scully has joined the Department of History, Political Science & Humanities. He will teach as an assistant professor of political science with a special interest in American politics.

“Luckily, when I came here, the department was just in a great position with some awesome students,” Scully said. “So I hope to continue the trajectory that the department is already on.”

Scully is originally from Washington, D.C., and has taught the same subject at the University of the Ozarks before coming to Lee.

“What was initially appealing, or what was what really drew me in about Lee, is the great academic environment that I saw here, the great relationship that students have with the faculty and the real opportunities for growth and for faculty to act as academic mentors,” Scully said.

With several new faces added to the College of Arts and Sciences, Melton said the future of each new faculty member excites him.

“I think possibly all of them are game-changers in some way,” Melton said. “So I’m really excited to see what they’re going to be doing, the contributions that they’re going to make in both the short-term and the long-term.”

For more information on contacting the new faculty members, you can visit the Lee University Employee Directory.

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