Twenty-five years ago, Dr. Jon Preston was writing on chalkboards as a teaching assistant at Georgia Tech. Today, he utilizes advanced technology as the newest Provost of UWG. Much has changed since Preston first started in education, but one thing has remained the same: meeting students where they are. Preston has held a student-centric belief through every role he has filled during his time in education, from a young teaching assistant to professor, dean, and now provost.
“It always comes back to the student,” said Preston. He described the process of ensuring that students are successful by “giving them the opportunity to own their education” by adapting to that student’s mental model. “It’s really about the student-teacher relationship,” he said.
“How can we do as much good for students as quickly as possible? How can we best serve students?” said Preston.
When asked about his plans for the university, Preston restated that it always comes back to the student. He emphasised collaboration, listening, and learning internally. One specific initiative that Preston plans on implementing is the four year degree. While he realized that there are different paths for success for different students, he wanted to make the four year degree standard at UWG.
“Four years should be doable and a goal for many of our students,” said Preston, “but it’s not the only way”.
He acknowledged the present challenges that make it harder for students to graduate in four years, such as having to work outside of school, the cost of education, and the complex material of today’s curriculum. He said that there are many resources and support that are available for students today, which aids in student success. He plans on creating diverse course offerings, assessing the prerequisite chains, and emphasis on interdisciplinary programming. He is committing to using the waitlist and creating more sections of courses if needed. Preston utilized data of student success to coordinate content between class sections while at Kennesaw and plans to bring that practice to UWG.
Preston was previously Dean of the College of Computing at Kennesaw State University, where he had to adapt to challenges brought on by the pandemic. He utilized technology in the classroom, but noted “it’s not a silver bullet”. He emphasises the heightened grace that students should be receiving during this time, such as professors creating flexibility with deadlines.
Preston plans on implementing community outreach programs to inspire students from a young age to choose UWG. He was inspired at age ten to study computer science by his fourth grade teacher, and wants to bring that same experience to other students. He emphasised being community ambassadors of UWG in and around Carrollton. Since his arrival at UWG, Preston said he has explored different academic disciplines than his life-long study, computer science. He stated his positive beliefs about UWG have been affirmed.
Preston has resided in the west Atlanta suburbs for over twenty years and has heavily invested into the community of West Georgia. Two of his children have dual enrolled at UWG and he has collaborated with staff here. He looks forward to investing even further into the community during his time here, and he raved about the vibrant place that is West Georgia.
Photo credits: University Communications and Marketing