Lee University’s Dr. Debbie Murray is transitioning into her new VP position
by CHRISTY ARMSTRONG, Banner Staff Writer
Jul 15, 2013 | 1177 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dr. Debbie Murray
Dr. Debbie Murray
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Dr. Debbie Murray, vice president of academic affairs at Lee University, has been in transition.

Since 1980, she worked in the university’s Helen DeVos College of Education in various roles, including teaching students the skills they needed to become school teachers and most recently serving as its dean.

Now, she’s transitioning into her new role of supervising the professors who teach college students how to become teachers.

“It’s been busy but exciting,” Murray said. “Now, I get to work with all four of the schools.” 

The university’s schools also include the School of Religion, the School of Music and the College of Arts and Sciences.

Murray said one of her major priorities as she settles into her new job will be to work on getting to know the university’s faculty and any concerns they might have, since her focus has changed to be more on them than it was previously.

“The first year is just to keep learning,” she said. “It is definitely a shift.”

Her upcoming plans also include helping two new degree programs begin at Lee.

This fall, Lee will officially launch its master of arts in business administration program, which will be made up of both on-campus and online MBA classes.

Murray said she and the university have also been working with the tentative goal of having a new bachelor’s degree program in nursing ready for its first students in fall 2014.

When she is not busy assisting with new additions to the university’s curricula, Murray said she enjoys spending time with family, reading and traveling.

Her husband, Danny, is director of the university’s a cappella music group, the Voices of Lee. She said she has also enjoyed traveling with and getting to know the students in the group.

Originally from Mississippi, Murray said she has spent most of her life in Cleveland. She graduated from Cleveland High School and attended what was then called Lee College. She also taught in the Bradley County Schools system before pursuing graduate school and beginning teaching on a college level.

Teaching came naturally to her, she said, because it “ran in the family.” Her parents were both teachers, and her father was once dean of Lee University’s college of education, just as she later was. Her sister also became director of the Lee University Developmental Inclusion Classroom program for children with autism and developmental disabilities. Three out of Murray’s four children also decided to continue the family tradition of working in the field of education.

As she has held various positions at Lee throughout the years, including stints as the director of teacher education programs and director of graduate programs in education, Murray said she was able to gain experiences in areas like special education which will help her as she supervises academic programs as a vice president.

Though many consider the term “special education” to be just about disabilities, she said she sees it as working to tailor learning experiences to students’ individual learning styles. She added she feels the university is already trying to do so by focusing on the strengths students and staff learn they have when they reach Lee. New students and staff take the Gallup StrengthsFinder assessment, a personality test which ostensibly lists the “top five” strengths most prominent in their lives. The 34 possible strengths bear titles ranging from “Adaptability” to “WOO,” or “winning others over.” 

“We talk a lot about the strengths that each individual has,” she said, adding that applying those strengths is sometimes mentioned in classes as a way students can reach their goals after graduation.

Though she still has a set of cardboard moving boxes in her new office, Murray said she is ready to help with efforts to make both her university and the city of Cleveland better by fostering the skills and abilities of educators and students alike.

“I love the community,” Murray said. “I love the fact that I feel like I’m contributing to both.”