New position connects Honors College and CCEL

A New Year and a new semester finds UAA’s Honors College with new leadership.

Dr. Judith Owens-Manley was appointed Interim Associate Dean of the College Jan 9 and will be handling the advising, curriculum planning and programming for the college. Owens-Manley holds a Ph.D. in social welfare and is the current Director for the Center for Community Engagement and Learning (CCEL).

Dr. Ronald Spatz, the Dean of the Honors College, selected Owens-Manley after observing her excellence in the CCEL.

“She’s proven herself to be an outstanding scholar and a student-focused administrator ¾ the ideal combination,” Spatz stated.

Owens-Manley first came to work at UAA in August of 2010 after working as the Associate Director for community research at Hamilton College in New York. Her experience at Hamilton College and her work in the CCEL is what makes her an asset to the Honors College, according to Spatz.

In a press release distributed to the campus community on Jan 10, Spatz stated the new position “will allow the CCEL and the Honors College to align two of the best high-impact practices that have been found to make a difference in higher education – undergraduate research and community engagement.”

The emphasis upon community engagement stems from her social work experience and own difficulties receiving an undergraduate degree. She started college at Western Michigan University and quickly found out it was not the experience she was looking for.

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“When I got there, I really was just lost in that huge environment,” Owens-Manley recalled. She would like to focus on giving students more of an opportunity to find their niche within UAA and believes the Honors College would be able to do that.

“I think there’s a lot of students who come in who could really find a home in honors and don’t really know that it’s there or don’t know that they could be a part of that – don’t really realize what it could offer them,” she said.

Owens-Manley and Spatz hope that the combined leadership will not only benefit their two programs, but also the University as a whole. Both speak of an “honors perspective” that could influence all students in a positive way.

“I’m intrigued as to how we might expand what having an Honors program does for everyone,” Owens-Manley said.

Although holding positions in both the CCEL and the Honors College could create initial administration problems, both programs are excited at the union.

“I think in the long run, once we get the minor problems worked out, it will be better. It will give us a longer reach across campus,” said Amber Lee, the AmeriCorps Campus Coordinator for the CCEL.

Spatz also believes the two positions are complementary and that Owens-Manley will be able to handle leadership in both organizations.

“I think that this administration alignment actually makes clearer the vision of the Honors College. Bringing this team together shows what we hope to accomplish,” he stated.

Juggling two jobs is nothing new for Owens-Manley. While working at Hamilton College she also held a private practice for social work. She gave up the private practice when she moved to Alaska and is glad to be able to focus solely on the University.

“I worked two jobs for so long, its been kind of freeing,” she said. Despite her relief at being able to concentrate on one job, Owens-Manley will still be holding two leadership roles in administration while holding a faculty appointment in the School of Social Work.

Even though the work might be a heavy load, Owens-Manley is still passionate about what she does and how she contributes to UAA.

“I think there’s two things I’ve brought to the University. One is an understanding of how to work with the community because that’s really the setting I came from before higher education,” Owens-Manley explained. “And the second thing is just a set of skill for getting people to work together, for understanding how to work with group – social workers just manage things in a different way and are all for group communication.”

“I’m really interested in how to keep creating that community of Honors students so that it really is a place to belong.”

Efforts to make Owens-Manley’s position permanent are already underway.