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URI faculty members accepted to American Council on Education

By Hensley Carrasco
On April 6, 2012


Among the new fellows accepted into the American Council on Education (ACE), two happen to come from the University of Rhode Island.

Director of the Film/Media program in the Harrington School of Communication and Media Sheri Wills was one of the two URI faculty accepted into the ACE. The other member, Nancy Eaton, is the chair of the department of mathematics. Wills, who also teaches art and art history at URI, said the application process was demanding.

"It was actually a really rigorous application process," Wills said. "I actually started thinking about whether or not I wanted to apply for this last year around April. The process itself was labor intensive enough that I really wanted to make sure that I was committed to it."

In order to be able to apply, Wills said she needed to be sponsored by URI in addition to writing a paper on why she wanted to be a member and what she would be doing if accepted. She said the paper was approximately 15 to 20 pages and "pretty intense."

This past January, Wills traveled to Washington D.C. to take part in the interview portion of the application. The interview process, she said, took about one half of a day to complete. While there, Wills said she met with panels made up of six different college presidents.

Wills said there are four components that go into being a fellow for the ACE. She said the first component is placement.

"You need to find an institute of higher education where you think you can learn a lot from the people and the things that they're doing there," Wills said. "You ask them if they would be interested in having there as a fellow. That's the process we're in right now-finding our host institution."

After she finds a host institution, Wills said she would go there daily as though she were a part of the faculty. While there, Wills said she would work with the president of the university, vice president, provost, vice provost and others who are on the university's executive board. Wills will work with them on a daily basis and learn how the institution works. This will give her an opportunity to be mentored by those at the school.

The second part of being an ACE member, she said, is getting together with other fellows for workshops. Wills said the workshops will meet three or four times in the course of a year and she thinks they will take place over long weekends.

The third component is the opportunity to conduct site visits. With site visits, she will be able to visit other universities and "ask them questions [to] see what they're doing."

The final component of being an ACE member is a project that Wills will have to bring back to the university to display what she has learned and her progress.

"All of this comes together into what they call a learning project that I bring back to URI," Wills said. "[I] bring all of [the] wealth of knowledge, things I'm researching and people [I've talked] to and have that benefit URI."

Wills said it is a "very complex system" of tasks she will have to complete over the course of the year. While she's away at another institute, she said there is going to be an interim director taking her place. When she returns to the university, she will need to remain here for at least one year before being able to move to another institute for another position.

Wills isn't only a professor at the university. She also has work that has been exhibited throughout museums all over the world. According to her website, Wills' work has been in "the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the London Film Festival and the International Film Festival in Rotterdam [, Netherlands]."

A project she is currently working on is with violinist Karen Bentley Pollick. The project will have a video projected onto Pollick while she performs. The first performance is April 26 and will be webcast and those interested can watch from their computers.

Wills said she hopes being a part of the ACE program will be a good experience.

"When you talk to former fellows, one thing they all say is that it's a transformative experience," she said. "The idea of having a transformative experience in leadership development just sounds incredible to me. I never liked to stay in the same place. I liked to continually grow and develop. This felt like an opportunity to really grow."

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