A Conversation with Dr. Kelli Lynn Fellows
by Jay Salter '19 | Communication Specialist - May 27, 2021
Dr. Kelli Lynn Fellows joined the Newberry College staff earlier this year, taking the newly crafted helm of the College’s rapidly growing online division and a budding master’s degree program weeks away from accreditation.
This is kind of a big deal.
Newberry is meeting the post-pandemic world with a solid and growing menu of online programs, including an RN-to-BSN program for working nurses and the Palmetto State’s only bachelor’s-level program in respiratory therapy.
On top of this, the Scarlet and Gray are rolling out their first graduate program since 1928 — master’s degrees were offered for 43 years, beginning in 1885. This pending program, dubbed the Master of Science in organization leadership and development, has been developed primarily by Dr. David Fowler, chair of the College’s Department of Business Administration, over the last 18 months. More on Dr. Fowler later. The program passed institutional hurdles in February before being sent where it is now, to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, for final approval.
In the middle of all this is Dr. Fellows, who comes to Newberry from Pfeiffer University in North Carolina, where she was an assistant dean in graduate and business programs and a professor of business and leadership. She also touts an extensive professional background in communications and public relations.
After the obligatory talk of Mardi Gras and piping hot beignets, the New Orleans native discussed the changing face of business, the possibilities in education, and how excited she is to be at Newberry.
Q: What is this new master’s degree program all about?
A: The new MSODL focuses on two critical dimensions of business — individuals who comprise the organization, and coordinated action to business outcome attainment.
All organizations, regardless of type — nonprofit, for-profit, church, school — have one thing in common — people. That is, organizations are groups of people working together toward a common goal. And so when we recognize that, and juxtapose the science of business with the fact that human beings are not stable phenomena — we do not appear on the periodic table — then we say, ‘How do we effectively coordinate individual decision makers to collective action toward our common goal? How do we motivate to form and grow a thriving organization?’
Concurrently, the face of business is changing. How we do business is changing. We’ve got artificial intelligence coming in. We’ve got organizations and departments that have three to four generations all working alongside each other. Too, there's a lot of nuance to human behavior, to communication, and there are leadership aspects to organization development. They all come together to weave the fabric of how the organization operates. On top of all this, we’ve had a wake-up call for industries, brought on by the pandemic. It's truly given all firms a litmus test, if you will, of their own organizational rigidity, their leadership agility. It’s given us an opportunity to examine our own capacity for innovation.
This and our other burgeoning programs are also opportunities to infuse Newberry’s liberal arts tradition and core values, grounded in the Lutheran tradition, to help individuals discover their vocation; to help them discern their own ethical standards and their own moral compass; and to infuse them into ever-evolving industries. We are growing, and we will have the opportunity to grow ethical leaders, those who will contribute and hopefully continue to expand and innovate within and across all sectors of business and industry.
Q: What would you say to folks who are questioning whether it's worth it, to go to college, especially with everything that’s happened over the last year?
A: Within any society, there's always a need for a spectrum of educational offerings. So, there are folks who go to community colleges and technical schools to get very precise training in specific areas. Some of these people then take their associate degrees and their work experience and complete a bachelor’s in their fields, like nurses and respiratory therapists, for example. And then there are others who choose to earn traditional bachelor's degrees and then go on and work, or those who want graduate education. The spectrum of educational opportunities provides highly individualized choices and opportunities for reskilling, upskilling, and/or lifelong learning. Essentially — optimized employability.
Whether for career mobility or lifelong learning, education is a catalyst. Across every education venue, though, education is an investment in the individual and the individual’s possibility — helping them actualize their dream. And that’s what we’re about here at Newberry. We welcome anyone who wants to learn, to grow, to advance their careers and find their callings, and we continue refining and expanding program offerings to align with shifting marketplace needs and demands.
As we continue to emerge from the pandemic as a society, we recognize that some folks may be experiencing a change in their financial situation. Some folks might be questioning whether a traditional college education is worth the time and money. And Newberry College has, for the last several years, renewed its commitment to accessibility and affordability, and we have made it clear that we are willing to meet people where they are. And I think the most important thing about education is that it’s not an investment in just another piece of paper. It’s an investment in hope, in possibility, in discovery. Education fuels our individual and societal capacity to grow and thrive —as individuals, professionally, and to inspire others.
Q: What do you think of your time at Newberry so far?
A: I am truly ‘living the dream!’ What a phenomenal opportunity to work with visionary leaders, people who are driving our programs and who share a passion for education for life. I’m impressed by the caliber and the commitment of the faculty and staff. It truly feels like a family here, a place where one can thrive. My roots in the Newberry community deepen each day — getting to know area businesses, taking classes at the Newberry Arts and Cultural Center, attending performances at the Opera House, and developing relationships with alumni and community members. It truly feels like home, and for that, I consider myself blessed beyond measure. I’m ecstatic to be here, and my door is always open. Drop by and let’s chat over a cup of coffee. Together, we will ‘make it happen!’