Sally McMillan: Interim Director of the School of ADPR, written by Cara Hunter
After 20 years at the University of Tennessee serving as a faculty member, associate dean in the College of Communication and Information and Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, Dr. Sally McMillan will serve as interim director of the School of Advertising and Public Relations starting on June 1, 2019.
McMillan did not always plan on pursuing a career in academics. After changing her major many times, McMillan graduated with a degree in English from Southern Adventist University and went on to teach high school students for two years. After realizing that teaching at a high school level was not her calling, she went on to work in book editing and receive a master’s degree in public relations from the University of Maryland. Later, she moved to Wisconsin with her husband where she was hired by a software development company. Starting in the public relations department, McMillan quickly moved up to vice president for sales and marketing and later president of the company. However, McMillan questioned whether she wanted to work in technology for the rest of her life.
Because she had enjoyed adjunct teaching at the college level and had a passion for research, she decided to attend the University of Oregon, where she received a doctorate in mass communication and society. Upon graduation, McMillan taught advertising at Boston University but quickly realized that she did not want to live in Boston forever and applied for a faculty position at the University of Tennessee. McMillan started as an assistant professor and taught for five years before being recruited to serve as the associate dean in the College of Communication and Information. Five years later, she was recruited to be Vice Provost for Academic Affairs where she focused on developing a strategic plan for undergraduate students.
McMillan took advantage of her time in an administrative role to create positive change for undergraduate students. She helped develop One Stop and uTrack and revised curriculum to make it easier for students to graduate on time. Her work, along with the work of many others is reflected in the fact that the four-year graduation rate increased by 22 percent in 10 years.
In 2015, McMillan left her administrative role to return to teaching. She has taught an assortment of advertising and public relations courses and researches a variety of topics. When asked about which career achievement she is most proud of, McMillan states, “Being able to do research that helps students succeed in college has been the most rewarding. Teaching is great because I can work directly with students to help them learn, but being able to step back and research structural changes that can improve student success is the work that I feel can make the most broad-reaching difference.”
Throughout her many years as a communication practitioner, technology executive, professor, researcher, and administrator, McMillan’s list of achievements does not go unnoticed. This past October, McMillan was awarded Alumna of the Year by the Southern Adventist University Alumni Association for her outstanding professional contributions to the fields of education, administrative leadership, communication and research. McMillan plans to take her experience and love for students into her new role as interim director to continue leading the School of Advertising and Public Relations in the right direction. See more about her award here.