Georgia Gwinnett College selects School of Science and Technology dean

Pic of Chavonda J. Mills

Dr. Chavonda J. Mills (Photo credit: Kymora Jaxson) 

Chavonda J. Mills, Ph.D. will become dean of Georgia Gwinnett College’s (GGC) School of Science and Technology (SST), effective July 1.  

“Dr. Mills brings an exceptional combination of faculty and administrative experience, plus a passion for student success to her new role at Georgia Gwinnett College,” said GGC’s senior vice president for academic and student affairs and provost, George S. Low. “She is a perfect fit for GGC and for this important leadership position on our campus.”

Distinguished career

Mills is currently a professor and chair of the department of chemistry, physics and astronomy at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville. There, she broadened the department, adding new concentrations in forensic chemistry and physics education. She secured pre-pharmacy articulation agreements with three partner institutions and implemented the department’s short- and long-term goals. Mills worked with a team of project managers, architects and administrators on the construction of a $22.1 million, 43,000 sq. ft. integrated science complex and secured partnerships with local companies to provide internships for students. During her 15 years at the university, she secured nearly $2 million in grants including a $650,000 grant from the National Science Foundation this year to retain and support high-achieving, low-income STEM students through graduation. 

She received a number of awards in her career, including a number of accolades from the American Chemical Society and was published in peer-reviewed journals. Mills has contributed to the national conversation regarding undergraduate and graduate STEM research, promoting diversity among STEM majors and her research surrounding the use of flavonoids to work in the fight against Alzheimer’s Disease, certain cancers and HIV. In fact, Mills and her colleague earned a patent for her research in 2012.

At GGC, Mills will serve as the chief administrator of SST, providing overall leadership to drive effective operations of the different academic disciplines within the school. She will work with key campus partners to develop relationships internally and externally and foster a climate that promotes excellence and collegiality within the school and the campus community. When Mills assumes the helm of SST, she said she will immediately get to work meeting with internal and external stakeholders to identify the school’s strengths, opportunities and untapped resources. A natural collaborator, Mills said she wants to meet and develop relationships with partners on and off campus.

Bright beginnings

Mills spent her formative years in metro Atlanta. The Decatur native had an early interest in the STEM field, which was encouraged by her teachers from her elementary school years through her time at Columbia High School. 

“My biology teacher was an African American woman,” she recalled. “My A/P chemistry and A/P calculus teachers were African American women. So there was never a time when I didn’t see someone who looked like me. There was never a time where I did not see myself reflected in those areas.”

While those educators made a meaningful impact, Mills credits her primary educators – her parents, for igniting and fanning the flames that fueled her interest in science. The daughter of a pharmacist, Mills said she spent a lot of time behind a pharmacy counter asking her father questions about his career. With each question answered, she always wanted to learn more.

And she did learn more, thanks to her mother, who bought Mills a chemistry set at an early age. 

“That’s how I spent my free time,” she said. “I remember spending hours and hours just mixing things, hoping they would react, and making observations.”

To further cultivate her interest, Mills parents enrolled the budding scientist in summer science programs. 

“They definitely saw that interest and helped me to develop it,” she explained. “That led me to pursue an undergraduate degree and ultimately a career in the science field.”

Aligning values

Mills said she was attracted to GGC because of its mission and vision. Described as a “21st century liberal arts college,” GGC is squarely focused on student success. Using a model that promotes support, accessibility and affordability, the school provides an inclusive and enhanced learning environment. 

“I am a product of a liberal arts undergraduate education,” said Mills. “So I understand its value and I want to continue serving students enrolled at a liberal arts institution. GGC is offering a premier liberal arts education accessible to all students. That’s what sealed it for me.”

When she assumes her new role at GGC, Mills plans to live in Gwinnett County with her husband and two daughters, ages 9 and 6.

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