June 30 will mark the end of Dr. Fannie Hewlett’s career at Chattanooga State. Hired as a psychology instructor in 1976 at Cleveland State, a colleague notified Dr. Hewlett of an opening for a psychology instructor at Chattanooga State in 1979 that would be closer to home and an easier commute for her. The rest, as they say, is history.
Prior to 2001, Dr. Hewlett served as an instructor, department head and dean before being named vice president for Academic Affairs. In 2011, her academic role expanded and she was named the college’s first Provost.
With a smile, Dr. Hewlett remembers the late 1970s. Known as “The Growing Years,” she recalls a completely different campus look than the current one that included only a Technology Center, Instructional Materials Building (Library), Student Center and a Physical Education Building. “The community college movement reached its zenith in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s and Chattanooga State experienced exponential growth,” states Dr. Hewlett.
According to Dr. Hewlett, the most exciting thing to happen in education during her tenure was a refocusing from a “teacher driven process to a learner driven process” where institutions became more concerned with students and the way instructors approach teaching. As technology entered the picture, it was critical for faculty to move forward. She cited keeping abreast of changes occurring to meet the outcome goals of Tennessee Board of Regents and Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accrediting agency as challenges facing future academic administrators.
One of the things Dr. Hewlett is most proud of is her administrative team. Through the years she has employed the strengths of her staff to achieve academic goals. “When the Regents Online Degree Program was first introduced, all TBR institutions were expected to participate as part of a collaborative initiative focusing on increasing access opportunities for students and to provide funding even if we were not using it,” she recalls. Under the leadership of Dr. Hewlett and her staff, what was once a program operating in the red here at Chattanooga State, now brings in more than $1 million each year.
Known for her vivacious personality, Dr. Hewlett stays motivated by what the next day holds. “There is a new challenge around every corner,” says Dr. Hewlett. Although awards hold meaning to her, she cherishes the ones that have to do with teaching or administrative excellence, a measurement that says, “what I do matters.”
Dr. Hewlett was present when Governor Haslam visited Chattanooga State to announce the recently enacted law called Tennessee Promise. She has hopes it will make education more affordable to a great many students. Although Tennessee Promise benefits graduating high school seniors in Tennessee with a 2.0 GPA or greater beginning in 2015, more than 55 percent of Chattanooga State students are age 25 and older. Dr. Hewlett’s advice to those students is to find a job at a company that pays for your education. Older students need to stress to employers how additional education will benefit the company.
As June 30 approaches, Dr. Hewlett looks forward to spending more time with her husband of 40 years, Jesse, her children and grandchildren, traveling, and catching up on recreational reading. Dr. Hewlett is a long-time member of Warren Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church and enjoys working with Charisma Club, a small civic club in Chattanooga.
Reflection aside, Dr. Hewlett says she will miss the people of Chattanooga State the most, but “I am ready to enjoy what I’ve been working toward all my life,” says Dr. Hewlett.