This is part five of a nine-part series profiling American Sentinel University’s leadership team. Check back each Monday to learn more about the strong leadership that guides American Sentinel and gather their tips for success in healthcare and in education.
If you asked Dr. Shelley Howell what she considers her greatest strengths to be, she would probably point to her leadership and organizational skills, which are in fact substantial. Dig a little deeper, and another trait emerges. Courage. It might be a different kind of courage than Dr. Howell is used to recognizing, but it is bravery and true grit all the same.
20 + 2 – 1
It may look like simple math, but when a 20-year old walks into the Admissions Office at the State Fair Community College with her two-year old and another child on the way, you know the hours in a day may not add up to a good night’s sleep. Then, take into consideration that she married her high school sweetheart and is living on a military base, never knowing when her husband might deploy into harm’s way. On top of all that, her parents had not gone to college and the idea that Shelley would have a higher education had never been a topic of conversation.
Faith believed in me
“My advisor at SFCC was Faith Lovell. She said, ‘If I give you a scholarship, can you make it happen’? I always knew I would go to college, and so I said yes,” Dr. Howell explained. Today, her children joke about how their parents may have overcompensated, setting the bar really high. Their dad has a Ph.D. and their mom has her Ed.D. in Higher Education Administration and a Master of Education in Adult Education. “We raised our children to understand that not going to college is not an option.”
Creating options for others
Dr. Howell may be a stickler for getting an education, but her career has been all about broadening the definition of and removing the obstacle to getting an education. In 2001, Dr. Howell was instrumental in facilitating a course equivalency program for the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. “At the time, it was considered a revolutionary idea to bring all the leaders from the state’s educational institutions together and get them to agree to what they would accept as transfer credit,” Dr. Howell explained. Writing this academic policy is one of Dr. Howell’s proudest achievements, undoubtedly stemming from her own experience as a non-traditional student.
A matter of degrees
Continuing along the same theme, Dr. Howell and her colleagues noticed that thousands of students in Oklahoma had an abundance of credit hours, but no degree to show for it. The problem was too many credits getting lost in the transfer between institutions. Her solution was to help create a degree completion program that would mean taking a deep dive into the politics of higher education. Once again, Dr. Howell proved her mettle and got the job done.
With two very large accomplishments under her belt, Dr. Howell accepted the position of Director of Academic Affairs at the University of Phoenix, Oklahoma campus. At the time, this institution was a 50/50 mix of traditional and digital classroom environments. Dr. Howell knew she would have no trouble embracing the non-traditional students, but was even more pleased to discover how much easier it was to change policy in a non-traditional institution.
“What I love about American Sentinel University is that we can be far more nimble and innovative when it comes to helping students. Traditional institutions are much more problematic. Here, we get things done,” Dr. Howell replied; and getting things done is what Dr. Howell likes best. She rates her project management and organizational skills as her strong suits, but confides that leadership just came naturally. “Most people wouldn’t know this about me, but I was a cheerleader in high school, and soon became head cheerleader. This when I realized that people looked to me to get things done, and it came easily to me.
The reason Dr. Howell may overlook her own courage is that since 2003 her children, and spouses of her children, have successfully completed seven deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. She is understandably proud of their service and of her six grandchildren. As for getting an education, “two of my four children have earned degrees, one’s in college and one is still having babies…but she’ll get there,” Dr. Howell added. With Dr. Howell as a role model, those grandchildren are sure to get plenty of encouragement.
Read the other Meet the Leaders articles to learn more about American Sentinel leadership.