Elon’s Morrison-Shetlar to become next WCU provost

Alison Morrison-Shetlar, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Elon University, has been appointed provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at Western Carolina University, effective Jan. 15.

The selection of Morrison-Shetlar, who has more than 33 years of experience working in higher education at eight institutions in three countries, concludes a national search by a 15-member campus committee to fill a vacancy created by the death of Angela Laird Brenton, who passed away May 8 after a three-month battle with cancer.

“Dr. Morrison-Shetlar brings to her new role a wealth of academic and administrative experience that will be invaluable to us as we pursue our commitments to academic excellence and student success,” WCU Chancellor David O. Belcher said in announcing the appointment on Monday, Oct. 21. “She garnered tremendous support from the university community during the course of the search process, and I eagerly anticipate Western Carolina’s growth and development under her leadership.”

Alison Morrison-Shetlar

Alison Morrison-Shetlar

Morrison-Shetlar, also a professor of biology, has served as a dean at Elon since 2010. She previously served as vice provost, dean of undergraduate studies and director of the Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of Central Florida and as director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching at Georgia Southern University.

Morrison-Shetlar said that WCU’s emphasis on excellence in teaching and learning and its commitment to community collaboration dovetail with her own professional values and experiences.

“I have been interested and involved in Western Carolina University for several years, watching it grow and seeing the impact that the university, faculty, staff and students are having on the economic development of the area through engaged learning activities such as service learning, research and creativity, and community engagement. Our passions are the same and I look forward to working with passionate, effective and collaborative people who want to take on leadership roles to make a difference,” she said.

“The energy that I discern from the faculty, staff and administration is exciting, and I want to be part of WCU’s commitment to high-quality education that promotes making a difference in the world,” she said.

As dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Elon, Morrison-Shetlar is responsible for 19 academic departments, 26 interdisciplinary minors, and pre-law and pre-health programs. She oversees more than 250 full-time faculty members and more than 145 adjunct faculty members. She also founded North Carolina’s Project Kaleidoscope Network, which brings together educators from science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines to focus on educational strategies.

She has been awarded nearly $4 million in external grant funding for research on topics ranging from laboratory-based examinations of the molecular, biochemical and physiological aspects of cell membrane transport systems to a more pedagogical investigation of large classrooms, effective use of technology, and student engagement, retention and graduation.

A native of Scotland, Morrison-Shetlar also has served as founding chair of the molecular biology unit at the Max Planck Institute in Dortmund, Germany, and has taught at Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany; Trinity College in Hartford, Conn.; Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn.; and the Kennedy Institute for Rheumatology in London.

Richard Starnes, dean of WCU’s College of Arts and Sciences, who chaired the search committee, said Morrison-Shetlar’s qualifications and personality make her a great fit for the university.

“Dr. Morrison-Shetlar quickly impressed the search committee with her achievements in scholarship and teaching, her breadth of experience and her leadership style,” Starnes said. “While on campus, she exceeded our initial impressions. Her presence, her sense of humor and her understanding of Western Carolina’s history and mission convinced the campus community that she is the right provost for WCU’s future.”

Morrison-Shetlar holds a doctorate in biomedical science from Dundee College of Technology, where she also earned her bachelor’s degree in biology and chemistry. She earned a management and leadership in higher education certificate from the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University.