Article by Cathy Englishman

Dean Jim Narduzzi stepped down in July, after 21 distinguished years leading UR’s School of Professional & Continuing Studies (SPCS), but he left us with a strong foundation of providing educational opportunities to adults in metropolitan Richmond.

It is this energized foundation that attracted Dr. Jamelle Wilson to SPCS. Wilson assumed her new responsibilities as dean of the school on August 1. I met with Wilson and listened to her thoughts as she begins her work at UR. 

She first noted that education, at all levels, enriches a community. She believes that SPCS offers services and programs that help adults at all points in their lives reach their goals.

I wondered what made Wilson such a great fit as the dean of SPCS. In fact, in her family, success was in the medical field. She assumed she would take the next step and become a doctor — that was until she hit college chemistry head on and realized that was not her path! At that point, she was finally ready to “listen to herself” rather than to what others planned for her.

When she realized she could help others, continue her family legacy, and live her passion through education and teaching, she never looked back. She earned her BA in English and MT (Master of Teaching) from UVA, MA in English from VCU, and EdD (Doctor of Education in educational leadership and policy studies) from UVA. She moved from high school English teacher through roles of increasing responsibility and leadership up to superintendent of Hanover County Public Schools.

Dr. Wilson left Hanover having been named the 2015 Region 1 Superintendent of the Year.

On a personal note, Wilson watched her mother, aunt, and grandmother excel in their careers through adult education. As a married professional and mother, she herself was an adult student and studied part time to obtain certifications and degrees, including her doctorate. Most importantly, she listened to formal and informal mentors who planted seeds that influenced her growth and direction. She views her personal experiences as preparation for her role in adult education and for her ability to relate to the numerous hurdles that students at SPCS encounter each day.

Dean Wilson is razor-focused on “community learning” and on positioning education for personal improvement and professional advancement. The bottom line is that this type of education helps us all — on a personal level and as a community. She embraces her responsibility to ensure that the foundation built by Dr. Narduzzi thrives and grows even stronger. We cannot simply rely on our reputation. If we do, we lose the chance to improve and miss opportunities to serve in new and unique ways. Wilson’s goal is to find these opportunities and grow and strengthen SPCS as a community resource.

When discussing the Osher Institute with Dean Wilson, she said she’s excited that this program offers another facet of adult education within SPCS. While Osher offers diverse learning experiences to its members, it also provides a venue for members to share their personal wealth of knowledge by teaching courses.  She sees Osher as a wonderful way for the University to respond to a clearly identified need in our community!  

We welcome Dean Wilson to UR, SPCS, and especially to the Osher Institute. We look forward to getting to know her better as she joins us all in enriching lives in the greater Richmond community.

This feature was originally published in the fall 2015 Osher Insider e-Newsletter.