Get to know Vice President for Academic Affairs Pamela Vesely

Pam Vesely fell in love with Lees-McRae somewhat unexpectedly. She had been living in Asheville for a handful of years and wanted to explore the area. Having never made the trip up to Banner Elk, when she finally did make it up to the campus in the clouds she was immediately charmed by the beautiful campus, historic buildings, and students and faculty she saw milling about enjoying the cool mountain air.

“I saw the buildings and the campus, and I said, ‘I want to work there one day,’” Vesely said. “You could tell that it was a campus that was focused on relationships, relationship building, and being relational to each other.”

Now, ten years later, Vesely is simultaneously looking back on the past decade she has spent at Lees-McRae, looking into the future of the college, and strategizing how she can help the institution get there through her new role as Vice President for Academic Affairs.

Vesely began at Lees-McRae as an Assistant Professor of Teacher Education and has consistently taken on more responsibility as she became more deeply invested in the vision she has for the institution. Over the past decade she has served as Director of Teacher Education, Dean of Arts and Humanities, Dean of Education and Social Sciences, Interim Dean of Business Administration, and Interim Dean of Online and Distance Learning.

As Vice President for Academic Affairs, Vesely’s primary role is to guide faculty in developing the curricula and services the college provides to students through close collaboration with cabinet members, deans, and faculty senate members. Although the role is new to Vesely in name, she is not inexperienced when it comes to developing cutting-edge academic programming and collaborating with stakeholders across multiple channels.

“I’ve been in teacher education for over 40 years, and for a lot of that time I was actually hired by school systems to come in and set up inclusive environments for individuals with exceptionalities. It could be programming for kids who are academically gifted or who have one of the 12 disability categories,” Vesely said. “In order to do that I had to work with a wide range of people within a school system, listen to what they thought was important, do a lot of research about what was best practice, and bring all of us to the table to create those programs.”

In addition to her related professional experience, Vesely brings her own doctoral research on education administration to the role. She plans to draw on these experiences and this expertise as she sets out to achieve the goals she has for her new position and for the future of the college.

One of her biggest goals relates to the first impression she had of Lees-McRae on the very first visit she made to Banner Elk: the college’s strength for building and maintaining relationships. Vesely, who describes herself as a team-oriented leader, is focused on building connections between staff, faculty, students, and administrators so that each group can work together toward their common goal of bettering the college.

“Whoever sits in this chair has to have a good vision for how we can bring everybody together to reach the next level of Lees-McRae,” she said. “I see my role and I take it very seriously that I really am sitting in this seat in service to the greater good of Lees-McRae, and for what we’re trying to achieve here. I tend to be a very positive and optimistic person, but I’m also realistic.”

When it comes to the future of Lees-McRae, however, Vesely says her optimism and realism are aligned. For 10 years she has been investing in this institution and taking on great responsibility because she said she believes in the future of Lees-McRae and sees that the college is already in the process of becoming the best version of itself yet.

As she looks back on the previous roles she has held at the college and looks into the future of what her role as Vice President for Academic Affairs can be, Vesely has always returned to that vision, her perspective of service, and the tangible steps she can take to make that vision a reality.

“By and large, when I look at where Lees-McRae was 10 years ago when I first came, and where it is now, it’s night and day different,” Vesely said. “In each case the question I ask myself is, ‘what good can I do to help students and faculty get what they need?’ That’s what keeps me coming back.”

By Maya JarrellFebruary 08, 2024