Two Mississippi University for Women faculty, Dr. Cecilia Brooks and professor Michael Dodson, have been named Provost Fellows for spring 2024 to address areas critical to the university’s strategic priorities, including providing innovative and experiential academic experiences for students that encourage them to become life-long learners, fostering excellence in teaching and program assessment and contributing to the health and cultural enrichment of campus and the local community.


Brooks, assistant professor of family science and a member of The W’s American Association of Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) ePortfolio Institute team, will work with faculty and students on ways to use the reflective writing ePortfolio framework to support development of students’ critical thinking and writing skills.

Brooks will administer a survey of faculty to identify courses that currently use writing practices in which students reflect on their learning, assessments used to determine the quality of reflective writing, how assessments are tied to accreditation or program/department assessment and perceived obstacles to including and assessing reflective writing activities.

Based on the survey results, Brooks will develop a teaching circle of faculty members to review existing critical thinking and writing rubrics and suggest an assessment tool that can be incorporated across multiple disciplines. Brooks will then work with the ePortfolio team to develop a workshop for students on improving their reflective capacity using the writing and critical thinking assessment tool developed by faculty.

Findings from the semester-long project can be shared with faculty already using or interested in using reflective writing in their courses.

Brooks said, “The assessment tool could encourage faculty to include reflective writing in their courses to further develop students’ understanding of their strengths, opportunities and achievements across various classes—both within and outside their program of study.”

Of the project’s support of The W’s strategic priorities, Brooks added, “The proposal strongly aligns with our goal of achieving academic excellence. It offers an opportunity for faculty, staff and students alike to actively participate and contribute to the process.”

Michael Dodson

Dodson, instructor of biology, will plan and implement the beginning stages of an edible plant trail on campus that will be available for ongoing use and special educational programs for the campus and local community. His goal is for the interdisciplinary project to involve students across multiple disciplines, including science, languages, history, art and culinary arts.

Dodson said, “As a botanist, I am researching the lack of plant awareness and their roles in the environment that seems rampant now as many have less connection to nature. This type of educational experience can help increase plant awareness and the plant relationship to human lives of our campus and local community, especially as plants are the basis of our ecosystems and provide so many services to humans.”

Also noting the value of the project to students across disciplines, Dodson said, “I am also researching interdisciplinary connections between the STEM and humanities fields as I am finding that collaboration between the two sets of disciplines can synergize great innovation that benefits our students in a number of ways in the learning process and in developing transferable skills.”

Students will work with Dodson to identify edible plants on campus that can be included on a walking trail as well as local edible and native plants, including specimens from The W’s Plymouth Bluff Environmental Center, that can be transplanted into designated spaces on campus.

Dodson will coordinate with the student team to research each plant’s uses, create recipes for the edible plants and transplant and maintain new plants. Students will also design labels including scientific and common names and names in Spanish, along with information on the plants’ uses, including edibility. QR codes on the labels will connect to additional online information and stories about the plants.

Dodson and his team will then plan and conduct the first guided walking tour of the trail in April and create a plan for further development of an edible campus and for the collection of edible fruits in the summer and related culinary activities.

Dr. Scott Tollison, provost and vice president for academic affairs said of the projects, “The Provost Fellows program provides the opportunity to both support and shine on a light on the work being done by our faculty. The proposals of Dr. Brooks and Mr. Dodson demonstrate great potential to advance the strategic priorities of the university.”

About The W

Located in historic Columbus, Mississippi, The W was founded in 1884 as the first state-supported college for women in the United States. Today, the university is home to 2,227 students in more than 70 majors and concentrations and has educated men for 40 years. The university is nationally recognized for low student debt, diversity and social mobility which empowers students to BE BOLD.

Be Bold. Tower with Blue.