Kacey DiGiacinto was named to the Vice Chancellor’s Leadership Academy (VCLA) at Elizabeth City State University for fall 2018. Since her appointment, she has helped to engage university faculty in leadership activities across campus, with improvements in academic results.
According to Interim Provost Farrah Ward, the Leadership Academy provides DiGiacinto and co-award recipient Juliet Boykins, with an opportunity to explore their leadership potential and to advance their understanding of interdepartmental collaborations.
For the first time, ECSU allowed individuals to apply for the upcoming semester to continue ongoing projects. “I applied and was accepted to remain in the VLCA during the spring 2019 semester. I was the first individual selected to do this,” DiGiacinto explained.
“It is a pleasure to provide a professional venue for fostering faculty leadership development,” said Ward. “It is extremely important that we cultivate and support the next generation of leaders that will lead ECSU in the future. Both have initiated projects which will continue to evolve and benefit the ECSU community.”
DiGiacinto, associate professor, Professional Studies and Human Performance, Department of Education, Psychology and Health at Elizabeth City State University, was tasked with making improvements to the curriculum revision process for spring 2019. All programs had the opportunity to update majors, minors and certification programs for the 2019-2021 catalog.
She was responsible for providing program data related to the number of students earning minors over the last five years. After developing all forms and processes for approval, DiGiacinto offered training workshops to program coordinators, curriculum coordinators, chairs and interested faculty. “Ultimately, this process will lead to better career options for our graduates,” she said.
A Follansbee, W.Va. native, DiGiacinto is engaged in a rotation in enrollment management. Additionally, DiGiacinto was part of the first class of candidates to finish the National Association for Kinesiology in Higher Education’s Department Head Certification Training program. In this training program she was paired with an off-campus mentor from the UNC system.
“My students, my program and the institution always come first in my decision-making process. This summer I participated in the American Association of State Colleges and Universities’ Emerging Leaders Program and I am working with enrollment management to complete my program project,” she added.
DiGiacinto says her efforts will focus on conducting research starting with freshmen students, to help implement targeted academic retention efforts. Through these efforts, ECSU expects to see better academic performance in all fields along with increased GPAs and scores on major field tests. By working on all these areas ECSU would be graduating higher numbers of marketable students.
According to administration, the targeted retention efforts will improve the amount of time it takes a student to matriculate. ECSU is projected to grow enrollment sizably during the coming year and improved retention will be necessary for student success. By improving the quality of graduates ECSU will improve its impact on the educational landscape in North Carolina.
With a reduction in tuition and plans for expansion there will soon be a need for mid-level managers and new departmental leadership. That’s where leaders like DiGiacinto will have an impact, with renewed focus on long-range program design, initiation, implementation, evaluation and reproduction.
DiGiacinto earned her 2010 Ph.D. in Kinesiology-Concentration in Physical Education Teacher Education (2010). In reflecting on the impact of her time at WVU, DiGiacinto credits CPASS Dean Dana Brooks for supporting professional development opportunities for students.
“I took advantage of every conference, workshop and training opportunity offered. It allowed me to learn new information and make professional connections to grow my network. I can say that my network of colleagues that I interact with the most are a direct result of those networking opportunities that Dean Brooks supported,” she said.
Although Dean Brooks provided funding for professional development, DiGiacinto says that Sean Bulger, CPASS director of online learning and professor, was equally as important in fostering her development as a professional.
“Dr. Bulger was my dissertation chair. He was always accessible, and I am thankful that when I came across problems I could often run upstairs to his office. He would make time to help me solve them. He was and is still my mentor. He continues to invite me to participate in research. Dr. Bulger was the one who provided direct instruction for navigating conference programs, politics and networking situations,” DiGiacinto added.
For CPASS students who are passionate about their academic careers, DiGiacinto recommends that they participate early and often in research projects, regardless of the level of responsibility.
DiGiacinto says that getting involved allows students to interact with the faculty in a unique way that can have short- and long-term benefits. She suggests that students take advantage of submitting abstracts to conferences and write requests for travel funding.
“The extra work is worth it when you get to a conference and you can meet people you have read about. The sessions at conferences can be inspiring and useful for advancing your research or finding new interests in teaching, research, and service,” she said.
She also encourages students to read articles and textbooks published by CPASS faculty to get to know who they are professionally. Having a strong faculty connection can help students discover a specialization early.
To springboard their careers, DiGiacinto says that students need to put in the work ‘early and often.’ Additionally, she recommends that students take on challenging projects to help develop new skills and knowledge, enabling them to know how to face future problems.
Finally, DiGiacinto suggests that students read Andrew Hawkins' 2011 NAKHE Delphine Hanna Lecture titled Kinesiology for Humans. “Dr. Hawkins is one of the great philosophers in our field and this lecture is challenging, insightful and inspirational,” she said.