Rosalyn Hargraves will spend the 2019-20 academic year at William & Mary as an American Council on Education Fellow. She will work primarily in strategic planning through the President’s Office, as well as lend her expertise to other initiatives through the Provost’s Office.
Hargraves is associate vice president for assessment and transformation in the Division for Inclusive Excellence at Virginia Commonwealth University. Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Hargraves’ background is in electrical engineering.
The ACE Fellows Program is designed to strengthen institutional and leadership capacity in American higher education by identifying and preparing faculty and staff for senior positions in administration. The current group of 30-plus fellows were nominated by senior administrators at their institutions and will participate in campus visits, retreats and interactive learning, as well as receive mentoring and networking, while working at a host institution of their choosing.
W&M News sat down with Hargraves to provide an introduction to the campus community.
Can you tell me about your background?
I earned all my degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Virginia. After completing my bachelor’s, I worked for about six months in industry before entering graduate school. While pursuing my Ph.D., I developed a passion for teaching and shifted my career aspirations to higher education.
I joined the faculty of VCU in 1996 as I was finishing my doctorate. It was an exciting opportunity to help launch VCU’s new school of engineering, and I’m proud to have been part of building what is now an established college of engineering here in Virginia.
Throughout my career, I have enjoyed working in interstitial spaces where you bring two disciplines together. Early on, my research focused on biomedical signal and image processing, the intersection of engineering and medicine. Our team created machine learning algorithms to analyze biomedical images and signals — CT scans, MRIs, ECGs, EEGs, and the like.
After several years as a faculty member, I moved into university administration as associate dean for graduate studies in engineering. During my fifth year as associate dean, my daughter was born. She was extremely premature, just a little tiny thing — one pound and 13 ounces, 13 inches long. At that point, I decided to return to the faculty to provide more flexibility in my schedule to meet her care needs.
Upon returning to the faculty, I shifted toward STEM education research and how best to ensure the success of all students in those critical disciplines. A joint appointment in engineering and education at VCU allowed me to operate at the intersection of those fields.
Three years after returning to the faculty, I was asked to serve as the interim co-chair of VCU’s Department of Teaching and Learning. My daughter is thriving now, and I welcomed the opportunity to return to university leadership.
In 2017, I was named associate vice president in VCU’s Division for Inclusive Excellence. And that brings me to the ACE fellowship, which is a phenomenal experience to develop leaders in higher ed. I’m here at William & Mary to grow, learn and contribute.
Why did you choose William & Mary for the ACE fellowship?
There were several reasons. Our family (with my husband and daughter) is based in the Richmond area, so I hoped to pursue a fellowship at one of several outstanding institutions in the region. William & Mary is an exceptionally well-respected, public university grounded in the liberal arts and sciences. The timing was ideal with a new president and new provost embarking upon strategic planning.
I also wanted a different type of institution given that I had spent my entire academic career at VCU. William & Mary allows me to move from a large, comprehensive, public research university to a liberal arts institution. William & Mary has a law school; VCU does not. VCU has a large health sciences campus; William & Mary does not. William & Mary is over 300 years old, and VCU just celebrated 50 years. Plus you have this amazing new president, amazing new provost. It was a really a great opportunity.
Finally, it was clear that President Rowe and Provost Agouris saw ways in which I could make a meaningful contribution at William & Mary. It was a great fit for both the university and me.
What area will you be working in during your fellowship?
I am participating with the strategic planning committee and will be working alongside Provost Peggy Agouris and Chief of Staff Jeremy Martin in that effort. As part of VCU’s planning process, I co-led one of the working groups that yielded VCU’s new strategic plan, Quest 2025 Together We Transform, and I also held a leading role in developing VCU’s recently approved Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Action Plan.
Strategic planning allows me to bring my experiences to William & Mary’s process as well as get to know the university itself. What better way could there be to get to know an institution than being a part of the conversations refining its values and exploring what William & Mary can and should be in this next decade?
What are you most looking forward to from this experience?
It’s invigorating to work and learn in a new place.
I look forward to growing as a leader. I look forward to learning from a university so committed to the liberal arts and sciences at its core. I look forward to observing how leaders work early on in their roles.
In addition, there are ACE fellows placed all across the United States, so the fellowship creates and builds a network with other aspiring educational leaders engaged in a similar experience.
Higher education faces lots of questions: Why is it so expensive? What’s the benefit of the degree? Seeking answers to questions like those prompts others about the future of higher education: What can higher ed do? What do we need to do? How can we meet the educational needs of our students and seize new opportunities? I’m excited to have an opportunity to explore answers to these types of questions, and I’m thrilled to be at William & Mary as it charts a strategic course for its future.