She has been appointed as Vice President for Administration and Innovation and will have the additional title of Distinguished Professor of Educational Equity and Social Justice. Dr. Spears currently serves as Vice President for Equity and Social Justice at Emerson College in Boston, and has held senior leadership positions at Dartmouth College and New England College. She brings significant experience as a faculty member in human development and education. Dr. Spears also brings expertise in faculty development related to the creation of inclusive and equitable learning environments. President Littky noted that “Dr. Spears has been a leader and innovator in all of her past work. She is a perfect fit at this time in the growth of College Unbound. The entire community is excited to welcome her.”
College Unbound is a degree completion college for adults, centered on equity and community engagement. Dr. Spears has been a powerful advocate of educational change throughout her career, both in learning that is student centered and in the structure of colleges, challenging policy and procedures that keep students from thriving and graduating. She writes that “These values guide not only my professional practice but also shape my vision of the future for the generations who will come after me. I seek a world where people move in solidarity with one another, and recognize their enduring interdependence and their shared right to thrive free from oppression. This is what I dream of and this is the ethic that I bring to all of my work.” Dr. Spears shared, “I am very excited to be joining the CU community, a place where getting into ‘good trouble” is baked into the curriculum and the culture of the College.”
Dr. Spears joins College Unbound at a critical moment in its history. Now fully accredited, College Unbound is ready to take big steps forward in its mission. CU Provost Adam Bush remarks that “Sylvia’s arrival is timely and awesome! College Unbound is embarking on its next strategic plan, and Sylvia’s history of working within institutions and pushing them to be their most just selves is important and necessary as CU begins to dream about its impact and adaptation.”
Dr. Spears is no stranger to Rhode Island. She is a member of the Narragansett Tribe and previously served as Tribal Administrator. Sylvia earned her doctoral degree at the University of Rhode Island in its joint program in education with Rhode Island College. She has deep connections to the surrounding area and a strong commitment to community-centered approaches that provide material relief, and support the self-determination of individuals and communities. This past spring, Dr. Spears was selected as one of the 50 Most Influential People of Color in Higher Education.