January 21, 2019  

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Dr. Julie G. Howdeshell serves as Director, Quality Enhancement Programs, at The University of Southern Mississippi. She took a few moments recently to reflect on her current responsibilities and outside interests in a question-and-answer format.

Q. What is your hometown and educational background?

A. I grew up in Memphis and studied English and political science at The University of Memphis, followed by a master’s in political science at Baylor University, and a doctorate in higher education administration at Southern Miss.

Q. How long have you worked at Southern Miss and what other positions have you held?

A. I started working at Southern Miss in 1998 as an academic specialist teaching the first-year seminar (UNV 101), advising undeclared majors, and teaching developmental reading.

Q. How did you become Director of Quality Enhancement?

A. In 2006, after the on-site accreditation visit, USM advertised for its first QEP Director, or Director of Quality Enhancement. My research during my doctorate on assessment and general education coupled with my work supporting student learning and success in the classroom made a good fit.

Q. What are the fundamental objectives of your job/office?

A. The primary objective is to oversee the University’s Quality Enhancement Plan, or QEP, which is required for accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. This includes selection of the topic by the university community, development and implementation of the plan, and assessment of the plan’s impact. I also provide support for general education assessment and the University’s overall SACSCOC accreditation work.

Q. If you weren’t employed in your current job, what else might you be doing and why?

A. Having worked in education for twenty years and knowing that’s where my passion still is, it’s hard to imagine doing anything else. No matter the particular job I hold, I want to be contributing to the success of others and solving problems. If I weren’t in education, I would likely be involved in areas of health and nutrition as those are also areas very dear to me.

Q. What is your favorite aspect of working in a university environment?

A. I love the sense of community it brings. We all have our specific roles and responsibilities but we are working toward common goals and support each other.

Q. What little known fact would people find surprising about you?

A. My husband and I wrote for months before talking on the phone or our first date. We were both from Memphis but away at different schools. After I finished at Baylor and was back in Memphis, my professor called me and asked what I was doing. I told him I was getting ready to go out on a date. He told me he had a better offer: tuition for my Ph.D. In church-state studies. Chris pulled up in the driveway less than five minutes later for our first date. It didn’t take long for me to call my professor back to say I was staying in Memphis. Chris and I have been married 18 years. Beyond that, I’m a die-hard basketball fan and have always wanted to drive a race car.

Q. What’s the best advice you ever received and from whom?

A. During my first year as QEP director, I received wonderful advice from Dr. Joan Exline in transitioning to my first administrative role. Some of it might seem basic, such as “don’t quit,” but really that can be applied to everything we do. On a personal level, I’ve always appreciated the advice from my mother-in-law that a maid is cheaper than a psychiatrist.