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CCU Atheneum: Nelljean Rice, dean of University College, consults with student intern Ly Pham.
Nelljean Rice, dean of University College, consults with student intern Ly Pham.

Rice leads young, growing University College

by Mona Prufer
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On Aug. 15, Nelljean M. Rice will celebrate her one-year anniversary as founding dean of University College at Coastal Carolina University by doing something not-so-different: she's working. “We are working flat out to accommodate all the new freshmen/transfers who will be coming to Aug. 18 Orientation and Aug. 19 move-in,” says Rice. “Then we have Saturday and Sunday as Welcome Week, so we'll be here all day both of those days. And classes start on Aug. 22.”

 Because of its relative youth and size, University College isn't as well known as CCU's other academic colleges (business, education, humanities, science), but it is growing fast. UC is the college of the undeclared student, and is charged with making certain that students who haven't yet determined their majors get the same level of collegiate support as their peers who have chosen a major area of study.

There are 417 undeclared majors registered for fall 2011.

“People [on campus] probably don't realize how many areas of the University we interact with,” says Rice. “We reach out to other areas to ensure student success.” 

But there's much more going on in UC. It's also the home of the First Year Experience program; the Academic Centers (tutoring labs for foreign languages, math, writing); nondeclared majors and interdisciplinary studies majors; the Bridge Program collaboration with Horry Georgetown Technical College; and the Lifelong Learning program. UC also manages the core curriculum and serves as the college of record for UNIV courses.

Rice's job is to “make sure everything is balanced and running smoothly, paying attention to the details while still looking at the big picture of where we will be five years down the line.” 

It's a formidable managerial responsibility, but you get the feeling it's no big deal for Nelljean Rice. “Today I was in UNIV 110 training all day for new FYE instructors,” she says, describing her week's work. “Also will be tomorrow. I have six meetings with various students, staff, etc., for the rest of the week.”

Other responsibilities might include a regularly scheduled meeting of the deans, teaching an FYE class, or working with her UC directors – Agatha O'Brien Gayes for first-year academic advising and FYE;  Michele Varga for the Bridge program with HGTC; Teresa Burns, director of core curriculum; and Brianne Parker for the Academic Center.

Fortunately, and unlike most, Rice enjoys meetings and the mounds of paperwork she tackles daily. “The paperwork gives me a feeling of accomplishment, and the meetings help me to learn what's going on in other areas and determine where we can most fruitfully partner.”

Rice has been a Coastal faculty member since 1987. She earned a bachelor's degree in English from Beloit College in 1971, a master's degree in English from Eastern Washington State University in 1973, a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing from the University of Arkansas in 1976 and a Ph.D. in 20th-century British literature with a minor in women's studies from the University of South Carolina in 1997.

She is also an associate professor in the Department of English. Her areas of specialty include children's and young adult literature, British and American poetry, creative nonfiction, Asian literature in translation, and First Year writing classes. Additionally, Rice helped establish the minor in Women's and Gender Studies, and she was the program director until 2005. 

Rice lives in Conway and has recently completed a home renovation for which she received a design award from the city. She loves to talk about daughter Emily, who is in the accelerated nursing program at John’s Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md., and is expecting her first child in January, and son Jesse, a songwriter/musician in Nashville.

 

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