New Name, New Leadership for Faculty Support Unit

Dr. Theresa Cullen and Dr. Alexis Johnson
Photographed (from left-to-right): Dr. Theresa Cullen and Dr. Alexis Johnson

Dr. Theresa Cullen has added the duties of director of the Arkansas Tech University Center for Faculty Learning, Innovation and Faculty Engagement (LIFE) to her responsibilities.

Formerly known as the ATU Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL), the ATU Center for Faculty LIFE offers regular professional development opportunities for ATU faculty members, facilitates programs that allow ATU faculty and staff to pursue greater well-being and oversees a badging program that offers credentials for faculty members who pursue continuous improvement through lifelong learning.

The name change went into effect Aug. 1, 2023.

According to its mission statement, the ATU Center for Faculty LIFE exists to “encourage and support faculty in their teaching, service and scholarship roles by fostering growth, innovation, community and engagement.”

The center’s vision statement expresses that it “promotes student success and community through supporting faculty in all facets of the faculty experience and in support of the strategic plan of Arkansas Tech University.”

Cullen joined Arkansas Tech on July 1, 2020. She serves as head of the ATU Department of Teaching and Educational Leadership and professor of curriculum and instruction.

She came to Arkansas Tech from the University of Oklahoma, where she was an associate professor and the John and Jane Kenney Endowed STEM Fellow in the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education.

Cullen was on the faculty in Norman from 2006-20. Along the way, she was named an Apple Distinguished Educator, served on the Oklahoma State Department of Education Technology Advisory Board and the Oklahoma State Department Computer Science Standards Committee Review Board and presided as chair of the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education Educational Technology Committee at the University of Oklahoma.

She pursued the department head position at Arkansas Tech because she wanted to return to an environment more similar to the one at Northwest Missouri State University, where she earned her Bachelor of Science in Education degree, her Master of Science degree in school computer studies and served as an instructor in computer science and information systems.

“After being part of the ATU community for three years, I have seen all the good that we can do for students and the level of faculty commitment to our mission and vision,” said Cullen. “I am excited to be able to use my training and background to help support faculty in this commitment. I also hope to use professional development activities to reinforce the strong community of faculty and staff we already have at Arkansas Tech.”

Cullen’s interest in integrating technology and learning is what drove her to earn a Master of Science degree and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in instructional systems technology from Indiana University.

“I am most excited about being able to work with people from all across campus and engage in creative program planning and problem solving,” said Cullen.

Joining Cullen on the ATU Center for Faculty LIFE leadership team will be Dr. Alexis Johnson, associate professor of communication. Johnson will serve as ATU Center for Faculty LIFE assistant director.

“I am delighted to be working with the ATU Center of Faculty LIFE because I truly believe that we can continue to learn and grow as educators,” said Johnson. “My hope is that I can reach my colleagues and support them in accomplishing their goals, whether that is providing an activity that reminds them of their ‘why’ for pursuing a career in higher education or assisting them in finding beneficial resources. I have learned so much in my own career about person-centered communication and communicated narrative sense-making that I will bring into my role at the center.”

Johnson said she plans to apply research results regarding narratives by Dr. Jody Koenig Kellas of the University of Nebraska to help her fellow ATU faculty members pursue improved communication, health (mental, physical and relational) and well-being.

“In understanding my colleagues’ narratives, I can uncover ways to promote fulfilling professional development for them that help them discover their passions in higher education,” said Johnson. “This — in part — will give them the tools needed to listen to and understand their students’ stories. In doing so, they will gain a stronger sense of what their students need to thrive during their college careers.”

Johnson holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Illinois-Chicago, a Master of Arts degree from Northeastern Illinois University and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She joined the ATU faculty in 2015.

“If we can take care of ourselves, grow and ignite a spark of curiosity in ourselves, we are able to translate that to others,” said Johnson. “Learning strategies to improve communication and listening will provide guidance for making sure all students have access to resources that will promote academic success. I am eager to speak with colleagues and learn more about what they would like to see from our center and how I can best support them.”