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Leader in transdisciplinary and intentionally inclusive leadership named founding dean of new College of Applied Human Sciences at West Virginia University

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Autumn Tooms Cyprès has been named founding dean of the new College of Applied Human Sciences, the Office of the Provost announced Thursday, May 5. (Submitted Photo)

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An internationally known expert in educational leadership and interdisciplinary transformations will join West Virginia University to lead the institution’s newest academic unit.

Autumn Tooms Cyprès, currently the associate provost for lifelong learning at The University of Alabama at Birmingham, has been named founding dean of the new College of Applied Human Sciences, the Office of the Provost announced Thursday, May 5. Her appointment will be effective June 30, 2022. Cyprès will also hold a faculty position in the College’s School of Education.

The new college is the result of a merger of the College of Education and Human Services and the College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences announced in May 2021 as part of the University’s academic transformation efforts.

“West Virginia University has been on a transformational journey for most of the past decade to become a purpose-driven leader in higher education,” President Gordon Gee said. “By uniting the expertise of these two colleges, we have taken a bold step forward, promoting new in-demand academic programs, interdisciplinary research and efficient service to students.”

Employees, students and alumni collaborated with University leadership to provide input on various aspects of the merger, including the search for a founding dean.

“Dr. Cyprès brings a unique set of skills and experience to West Virginia University at a time when innovative and transformational leadership is key,” Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Maryanne Reed said. “I am confident in her ability to build on the early success of this merged unit and lead the new College into an exciting future.”

As associate provost at The University of Alabama-Birmingham, Cyprès focused on strategic planning relative to the institution’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and creating transdisciplinary programs for degree and non-degree seeking learners. Prior to this role, she served as dean of the School of Education – the largest and most comprehensive school of its kind in Alabama.

As dean, Cyprès facilitated the design and implementation of the School of Education’s first strategic plan focused on intentional inclusivity and cross-disciplinary collaborations. Her holistic approach to leadership produced health and wellness programs for students, faculty and professional support staff. Cyprès also led the creation and implementation of infrastructures and policies within the School that resulted in successful national accreditations, enhanced brand recognition and partnerships, an elevated national profile, and increased student enrollments.

After 13 years in the public school system as a biology and chemistry teacher and later school principal, Cyprès entered higher education because of a passion to serve others through building innovative bridges between universities and community partners. She has led team collaboratives in the design, implementation and management of more than 70 graduate programs for leaders in education with the majority of those focused on serving communities in the Appalachian region of the United States.

Prior to The University of Alabama-Birmingham, Cyprès’ leadership roles in higher education include founding center director at The University of Tennessee, founding associate dean for research and graduate studies at St. John’s University, department chair at Virginia Commonwealth University and program coordinator at Kent State University. As a scholar-practitioner of educational leadership, she continues to publish books, research articles and teach courses focused on servant leadership and the intersections between education, health, wellness and prosperity. 

“I am humbled to be joining West Virginia University in the extraordinary role as the founding dean of the College of Applied Human Sciences,” Cyprès said. “WVU’s commitment to serving the communities of West Virginia through transformative innovations resonates profoundly with my values, and I look forward to collaborating with the remarkable colleagues who share in this commitment.”

Vice Provost Paul Kreider led the search committee that selected four candidates from a pool of applicants to visit campus in early April. The University retained the national firm Greenwood/Asher & Associates, Inc. to assist in this search.

Tracy Morris has served as interim dean and then dean of the College of Education and Human Services since 2018. She joined WVU in 1993 as a faculty member and has served in a variety of administrative roles in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences.

Jack Watson has served as interim dean and then dean of the College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences since 2019. He joined the College in 2000 and has served in multiple administrative capacities.

“We are grateful for the dedicated leadership of deans Morris and Watson over the last few years,” Reed said. “They each have demonstrated a steadfast commitment to their individual college’s success, and they have worked collaboratively and effectively this past year to ensure a smooth transition to the new college.”

The College of Applied Human Sciences will officially launch on July 1, 2022, under Cyprès’ leadership. It will be comprised of three schools– the School of Education, the School of Counseling and Well-being and the School of Sport Sciences.



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