After an extensive nationwide search, Trisha Folds-Bennett has been selected to serve as provost for the University of Virginia’s College at Wise. Folds-Bennett, now dean of the Honors College at the College of Charleston, will officially lead the UVA Wise Department of Academic Affairs in the summer of 2020.
Folds-Bennett, also a professor of psychology, will spend time on campus this spring preparing for her new post as she wraps up her duties at the College of Charleston. She will take over from Provost Sanders Huguenin who has decided to return to teaching in the Department of History and Philosophy.
“I am pleased to announce that Trisha Folds-Bennett will serve as our next provost,” Chancellor Donna P. Henry said. “She emerged at the top of the competitive search process that included input from faculty, staff, students and community members. I look forward to working with Trisha and welcoming her to Wise.”
Henry thanked members of the search committee for their hard work and dedication. John Mark Adrian, Scott Bevins, Anthony Cashio, Josephine Rodriguez, Tabitha Smith, Telena Turner, Heather Wilson and Marvin Gilliam formed the committee. Mark Clark and Huda Aden were committee co-chairs.
“They have spent many hours conducting exhaustive interviews and carefully considering every detail,” Henry added. “All of their hard work was done with the interest of UVA Wise in mind.”
Folds-Bennett spent a few days on campus this week meeting with some College officials she will be working with closely in coming months. She is excited to begin her new position as provost and said she was attracted to the region and to UVA Wise because of the College’s strong emphasis on liberal arts.
“The liberal arts tradition is important to me and it is important to the students,” she said. “I really love the mission of Wise because it is focused on accessibility for first generation students.”
She is no stranger to Southwest Virginia and the region as she has family ties to central Appalachia. Her great grandfather was a coal miner in Harlan, Kentucky.
“This is an area that is part of my family’s story,” she said. “It is nice to reconnect with my past. I am impressed that the College has a mission of accessibility in a region that will benefit from the leadership of the College.”
She met with faculty and administration during her initial interviews and was immediately struck by the strong relationship that is growing between UVA and its College at Wise. The resources the College at Wise can leverage from its ties with the University is of utmost importance, she added.
“As I first met with the search committee, which was mostly faculty members, I had the opportunity to learn more about the faculty, staff and the students,” she said. “I was impressed with the commitment that everybody has to the success of the College and with the affinity they have for the region. I saw a lot of potential. It seems to be a time where both the community and the College are on the cusp of making a real difference. The College is going to thrive if it is embraced by the community, and that kind of reciprocity is exciting to me.”
Folds-Bennett believes partnerships are important, and she wants to build stronger ones on campus.
“I love partnerships, and I love thinking about what is possible,” she said. “I want to bring different groups together around a common goal, and I see a lot of potential for that here.”
In her first weeks as provost, she plans to spend time getting to know the campus, its students and employees.
“I think it is important to know who they are and what their hopes and dreams are,” she added. “I want to know who the faculty are, what their expectations are, what they love most about the work they do here, what they are most passionate about, and what traditional aspects of the College they most want to protect.”
A developmental psychologist, her natural interest is in student development. She plans to spend time examining how UVA Wise students navigate the system on campus so she can understand what might be missing or needs to be put in place.
“I think a robust advising and mentoring system is so critical to student development and success,” she said. “I’ll spend a lot of time seeing what we have in place and what might be possible. So much can be done if we share a vision.”
Folds-Bennett enjoys puzzles, a hobby she grew to love as a child with her father by her side. She also enjoys cooking and baking, skills she learned from her mother and grandmother. In addition, she is a singer who will be interested in becoming involved with local choral groups.
She plans to be heavily involved on campus and in the community.
Currently the dean of the Honors College at the College of Charleston and associate professor of psychology. She oversees operations of the 750-student honors college, including admissions, curriculum, student and faculty development, assessment, budget, staff management and fundraising.
From June 2006 to January 2013, she served as associate dean of the Honors College. In that role, she established the Office of Nationally Competitive Awards and the Aiken Fellows Society in an effort to engage top scholars at the College of Charleston. She took a brief hiatus from her academic career from January 2004 through June 2006 to serve as Director of Programs, Products, and Services at Darkness to Light, a nonprofit organization focused on the prevention of child sexual abuse. While there, she oversaw the development and implementation of a sexual abuse prevention curriculum that is now used internationally. Before her time at Darkness to Light, she had a 14-year career as a faculty member in the College of Charleston Psychology Department. During that time, she was elected to be the first female Speaker of the Faculty and served in that role for three years.
Folds-Bennett earned her bachelors and masters degrees in Psychology from Wake Forest University and her doctoral degree in Developmental Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her disciplinary research focuses on the factors that contribute to cognitive and moral development in childhood and adolescence, and she has published several articles and book chapters in the area. In her role as dean, she has written articles and given presentations and workshops on the importance of reflective and experiential learning in student success. She is active in the National Collegiate Honors Council , the National Association of Fellowship Advisors, and the Phi Kappa Phi Honors Society.