By Nate Stein ’24
Ms. Abbie Mills will serve as the new Assistant Headmaster for Academic Affairs next year, Headmaster Byron Hulsey ’86 announced last week.
Dr. Hulsey announced the new position to the faculty in November 2022, and after a long application and interview process, Ms. Mills was selected for the role, which essentially combines the duties of the academic dean and the dean of faculty.
At the end of this school year, Mr. Paul Huber ’68 is set to retire, both as a French teacher and as the Academic Dean. And Dr. Matt Boesen, the current Dean of Faculty, will be stepping down to teach history. The Assistant Headmaster for Academic Affairs will absorb the responsibilities of both positions. She will oversee the faculty recruiting and hiring processes, all current faculty, the library, academic technology, and the department chairs—Dr. Boesen’s responsibilities—as well as the academic development center, the registrar’s office, and curriculum—Mr. Huber’s responsibilities.
Ms. Mills said she’s excited “because there’s so much opportunity and so much momentum behind rethinking how we teach, what we’re teaching, and the resources we have.”
A faculty member of seven years, Ms. Mills detailed how she’s experienced firsthand the changes brought on by two full years of virtual or semi-virtual learning as a result of COVID-19.
“The kids that we’re getting now are just different than they were five years ago, and so much of that is the technology you guys grew up with and your fluency with it.”
In her new position, she hopes to embrace those changes and engage in conversations about incorporating the technologies of recent years into education at Woodberry Forest.
Ms. Mills is no stranger to technology, though. Before coming to work at Woodberry, she served as an engineer at NASA, and she believes this background will help her manage our institution’s relationship with technology.
In terms of broad steps that Ms. Mills wants to take, she believes Woodberry is due “for a curriculum audit.
“What are we currently offering that the boys are most excited about? Are there areas where we’re kind of busting at the seams?”
As a specific example, she mentioned the possibility of expanding the journalism program here, an increasingly popular class that shows promise. She also mentioned her engineering class, which has been limited to only seniors because she is the only teacher.
Basically, she wants to maintain the well rounded liberal arts education that Woodberry is known for but also wants to encourage students to pursue their interests and strike a healthy balance.
To start this process off, she plans to interview all the department chairs as well as students. This will both allow her to get a sense of how everyone is feeling about the state of academics at Woodberry and form tentative plans to address any issues she finds. When Dr. Hulsey announced Ms. Mills’ appointment, one issue among students was the GPA calculation, which is currently capped to disincentivize students from overloading their schedules. She mentioned that this topic, which has a lot of stakeholders (students, teachers, advisors, college counselors, and more) will likely emerge as a priority.
“That’s a tricky conversation that involves a lot of different opinions. I think I come to the table with zero preconceived notions about what that would look like and would be really open to a full conversation.”
Ms. Mills said she looks forward to this new role.
“I’m really excited. I’m bringing a lot of renewed energy to this, and I’m looking forward to the new challenge and would certainly welcome any student or faculty member to come chat with me as I prepare to step into this role.”
Ms. Mills stressed that she doesn’t want her new title to discourage students from coming to meet with her. She wants to stay approachable to students and teachers because she believes that building a rapport will be an incredibly important aspect of her new position.
Leave a Reply