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Academic Spotlight: Associate Dean Dr. James Winfield

SNHU associate dean of First-Year-Experience and General Education Dr. James Winfield.Dr. James Winfield is an associate dean in Southern New Hampshire University’s first-year experience and online general education program. He has worked in higher education since 2010 after earning a master’s in education from Auburn University and a doctorate in curriculum and instruction from the University of South Carolina. Recently he answered questions about how he connects with students, the importance of education and more. 

Can you tell us about your professional background?  

My professional background has been focused on various aspects of higher education and supporting students through their college experiences. As I reflect on my journey, I have supported students in the admissions process, oriented them, taught them in transition courses, created learning environments that provide curricular and cocurricular supports, to seeing them achieve their immediate goal of walking across the stage at Commencement. 

What first drew you to higher education?  

I was drawn to higher education as a profession based on my experiences as a student leader at my alma mater. As an undergraduate student I was exposed to some great staff and advisors who showed me that there is a profession in working at a college. As a first-generation student this was intriguing, and I take this opportunity as a chance to pay it forward and help other students know that they can succeed in a college setting and beyond. 

What attracted you to this field of study? What keeps you excited about it?  

In many ways I study where I work, having worked and earned a degree in higher education administration I learn something new each week. Whether it is supporting an initiative or hearing from students as they share their excitement and reservations about navigating college, I find that each student’s story is unique and the common thread is that they all are here to achieve an academic or career goal.

I work with a great team who makes it their responsibility to help each student see and achieve those goals.

How have you found ways to effectively connect with students?  

In addition to being an associate dean, I teach some of the courses in our general education and first year experience. Through this experience I directly connect with our students and experience the diversity of our students and their life experiences. I thoroughly enjoy teaching as it also provides me with a pulse of the concerns and successes of the students that we serve. 

What brings you the greatest joy in your work as an associate dean?  

Being an associate dean in my area of passion, the first-year experience, brings me joy as I get to work with various committed professionals who seek to ensure that we help students effectively transition to SNHU.

In addition, making certain that these students know of the support systems that are here to help them achieve their academic and career goals is a responsibility that I do not take for granted. In the first-year experience, we have a mantra of persist, engage and network or PEN. This mantra guides our approach to ensuring that we keep our students first and support their progress at SNHU. 

What do you feel is unique about the faculty and students you work with? 

Our academic leaders push for the application of skills and connection to real-world experiences. This is something that many of our instructors appreciate and seek to foster.

The richness of experiences that come from our students makes for an engaging community as our student population comes from a myriad of life experiences. Our faculty supports students as they see the connections between the world around them and the classroom content. It is a great honor and responsibility. 

What does SNHU’s mission to transform the lives of learners mean to you?  

SNHU’s mission, in one word, means opportunity! Affording access to those who may have thought they would not have the opportunity to achieve a college degree.

With the flexibility and rigor, I believe that SNHU is committed to helping students graduate — like the first-generation college student who may have feel uncertain about college, that military veteran who is transitioning to civilian life, or that working parent seeking to get their degree to gain career advancement. This focus on access aligns with my values, and I am proud to be a part of it. 

Outside of work, what’s something you’re passionate about or really enjoy doing?  

My interests as of now are food! I really enjoy cooking for my friends and family. Growing up, food was love, and my grandmother and I have fond memories of me watching her cook as a child. I try to honor that tradition by replicating and modernizing recipes to share for my loved ones. 

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Joe Cote is a writer and organic marketer at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), where he has worked since 2016. Previously he spent more than a dozen years as a reporter and editor at weekly and daily newspapers in Vermont and New Hampshire. He lives near SNHU's Manchester, New Hampshire campus with his wife and daughter. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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