Meet the Graduate College Deans
Jeanetta Sims is a highly collaborative, respectful leader who believes in listening, honoring people and scaling through Mt. Fuji moments. Dean Sims describes Mt. Fuji moments as pivotal times in the lives of people, educational institutions, and organizations; these moments stand between historical context and future potentialities. She brings this perspective on moments coupled with her curiosity for scholarly inquiry to leadership of the Graduate College. Following time spent as an Assistant Dean and Interim Dean in the Graduate College, Sims officially became Dean in January 2019.
Dean Sims joined UCO in 2007 and developed a local reputation for working cooperatively to meaningfully advance key initiatives. Along with chairing numerous faculty committees and councils, she was instrumental in helping UCO achieve successful initial AACSB and HLC Open Pathway mid-cycle accreditation reviews. As Assistant Dean, she re-invigorated marketing for graduate programs, renewed the JD/MPA paired degree with the Oklahoma City School of Law, and added enhancements to the Swansea@UCO Ph.D. collaboration. As Interim Dean, she developed the amalgamation for the University College. She assumed management of Tutoring Central and with students re-branded it to create the Broncho Education and Learning Lab (BELL); a BELL Sports Performance Center location for student-athletes expanded its presence as a university resource for academic support – all through leveraging existing budget. She encouraged development of doctoral, accelerated degree program, and online graduate offerings. And, she initiated CRM review as a key mechanism for re-stimulating graduate enrollment.
At the national level, Dean Sims has been tapped for executive leadership in five professional associations. A few of her noteworthy contributions of service include exceeding funding for a National Communication Association Black Caucus $25,000 endowment accomplished within three years and mentoring Ph.D. students through participating and coordinating the Marketing Management Association’s Doctoral Student Teaching Consortium since its inception. Heightened levels of local and national service have enhanced Dean Sims’ sense of gratitude and appreciation for working alongside gifted scholars who represent the global array of different identities similar to the diverse group of UCO’s graduate faculty and staff.
As a teacher scholar at heart, Dean Sims holds keen insight on faculty and student engagement. She transitioned to the Graduate College after a career with more than 20 years of teaching and researching at the undergraduate and MBA levels. Since 2007, she has maintained a program of interdisciplinary, mentored student research, called Diverse Student Scholars. In her tenure as an award-winning professor and researcher, she is most proud of the top paper awards and publications achieved with undergraduate student co-authors. Each research project offers evidence of student growth, professional development, and transformative learning. Dean Sims continues teaching independent research studies in the UCO College of Business department of marketing, where she earned tenure and the rank of professor.
Charged with advancing a University College as UCO’s Higher Learning Commission Quality Initiative, Dean Sims faces another Mt. Fuji moment – leading a new effort to galvanize teams around undergraduate studies in a manner similar to what exists with graduate studies. She believes an inherent strength of the Graduate College is its unique area of institutional shared space. Through leveraging the expertise of graduate faculty and staff, Dean Sims’ aims for the Jackson College of Graduate Studies are to improve the overall graduate student experience, increase graduate marketplace offerings, foster a graduate community, and review alignment along metrics that matter.
Matt Hollrah is the Associate Dean of the Jackson College of Graduate Studies and the University College. He is also a tenured professor of English.
Hollrah’s scholarly work is focused on English composition pedagogy and creative writing. His work has appeared in the minnesota review, READER, and the edited collection Authorship Contested: Cultural Challenges to the Authentic, Autonomous Author. He is also the author of two online composition textbooks published by Great River Learning entitled So What? and Now What? His poetry has been published in Parabola, Swansea Review, Soundings Review, This Land, and the anthology Ain’t Nobody That Can Sing Like Me: New Oklahoma Writing, among others. He also serves on the creative writing advisory panel for the Oklahoma Arts Institute.
Hollrah is a past recipient of the Neely Excellence in Teaching Award, Vanderford Teaching Award, and the College of Liberal Arts Award for Outstanding Teaching. He also served as director of first-year composition, co-chair of the Provost’s Gen Ed Action Team, a UCO HLC QI Institutional Learning Outcomes Framework Team Member, a UCO AAC&U Persistence & Completion Academy Team Member, co-chair of the Oklahoma Academic Standards Writing Committee for English Language Arts, and an English content expert for Complete College America. He also serves on the peer review board for InSight: A Journal of Scholarly Teaching.
He lives with his wife, Julie, and their two children, Sadie and Simon, in Edmond.
Sunshine Cowan is certain she has the luckiest career ever. With a background as a public health educator and an absolute love for university teaching, she has been able to straddle both worlds by continuing to connect with community partners and embed meaningful community work into her classes. Most of the time, she feels she has surreptitiously held on to the best of each position as a public health practitioner and university professor - melding together her passions in a manner that simultaneously serves her students and the broader community. A colleague once referred to her as a “scholar-advocate” in describing her continued work toward health equity in the community with students who apply their discipline knowledge in real time.
Sunshine actively seeks opportunities to promote social justice and health equity (core principles of the health promotion field) in her classes while embracing the tenets of transformative learning at UCO. She incorporates her passions into her courses, allowing students to gain practical and personal experience working in diverse communities, while following her line of research and advocacy efforts. This type of classroom setting embraces critical thinking as students take ownership of the process and Sunshine works as a facilitator and guide.
Sunshine joined UCO in 2004, after working as a health educator for the Oklahoma State Department of Health where she served as the state coordinator for the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) as well as the Muscular Dystrophy Association, where she worked in patient advocacy. She received her Ph.D. from Oklahoma State University in Environmental Science with a focus on environmental justice. Her dissertation focused on the public housing controversy in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. She has an MPH in Health Promotion Science from the University of Oklahoma, and a B.S. in Community Health from UCO. She is a Master Certified Health Education Specialist (MCHES®).
Sunshine is active in her profession, serving on state boards and presenting nationally in the areas of public health and health equity. She has been able to take an issue that is central to the public health field (i.e. how the social and built environment affects health outcomes) and incorporate change in her classrooms. Doing so has allowed her to follow her passion while enhancing the material that students are learning in their texts. Theories, models, and frameworks come alive as students take ownership to set goals, meet objectives, utilize the media, gather and analyze research, and listen to their community in order to improve the health of diverse populations. Sunshine’s creativity in the classroom is enhanced by her connections to her profession and the community. Practical experiences in the field make the material come alive for students, while also transforming the classroom. Additionally, underserved (and sometimes ignored) populations are served while community organizations benefit from collaboration and partnership with university students. Transforming classrooms in this manner leads to students who understand their potential to impact their profession and their community.
In her additional role as the Assistant Dean for the Jackson College of Graduate Studies, Sunshine seeks to apply the same efforts of collaboration and meaningful partnership to promote the university’s quality initiative and first-year experience. Ongoing connection – both across campus and throughout the community – remain an intentional focus for her. Addressing capacities of career-readiness (and ensuring these endeavors for all students) ultimately enhances graduates’ own connections to diverse professional settings. Adding this meaningful work with faculty and students once again cements Sunshine’s assertion that she has the luckiest career ever.