Dr. Ralitsa Akins is not only the first person in her family to earn two doctoral degrees, she’s the first to receive a higher education degree at all.
An orthopedic surgeon turned accomplished academic leader, Akins now begins her journey as the new vice provost of the University of West Georgia, employing her unique perspective and remarkable skillset to help ensure a positive impact on the lives of students.
“I understand the trepidations of young people who do not have family members telling them what to expect but have to find their way through higher education by themselves,” Akins said. “I know how important it is to support students through this process.”
Formerly the provost of Des Moines University, Akins will lead academic planning to ensure UWG’s programs remain successful and relevant to the demands of the 21st century across multiple campuses in Carrollton, Newnan and Douglasville. As a senior officer in the Division of Academic Affairs, Akins will also lead UWG’s eCore and eCampus endeavors and will be responsible for academic testing services, institutional effectiveness and assessment.
Dr. Jon Preston, UWG’s provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, said he has absolute confidence in Akins and looks forward to working together through a mutual commitment to the curation of a first-choice university.
“Dr. Akins’ rich history of strong leadership and dedication to student success is impactful and will serve UWG well,” said Preston. “I look forward to working alongside her as she brings her expertise, years of experience and forward-thinking mindset to our senior leadership team.”
Although Akins’ fascinating life has included a distinctive career journey, she said it has unfolded rather naturally, and she is pleased with the way things culminated.
“I started my professional and educational journey as a medical doctor in orthopedic and trauma surgery in Bulgaria,” she said. “At the time I was focused on impacting patient outcomes, and the best way I saw to do that was by improving training in medical schools. This led me to pursue an educational administration program in the United States at Texas A&M University, and that is when I discovered that I could have an important impact on higher education here in the United States.”
Before arriving at UWG, Akins worked in six higher education institutions in five states. Although her duties varied, her focus has always been on giving students the finest, most enriching higher education experience possible.
“I’ve always had the same goal and same mission of improving student training to include real-life experiences in their education and to serve as a catalyst for success,” Akins said. “The background I’ve had provided me with a breadth and depth of understanding about student experiences and needs in higher education. The diversity of my work, I believe, provided me with a better, broader, deeper viewpoint to be able to be student-focused and student-centered in what I do.”
From founding a community health institute to working on the lead teams to start three medical schools from the ground up, Akins has perpetually and consistently remained committed to the prosperity of higher education students.
“This process of creating and making an impact for students and leading with innovation and insight is very exciting to me,” Akins said. “I love it when former students reach out to me and say how happy they are and share their success. I’ve been following former students for many, many years.”
Akins said she was drawn to the role at UWG for a number of reasons, including the like-minded people she met and the university’s strategic plan – Becoming UWG.
“I was impressed by President [Brendan B.] Kelly’s ambitious strategic plan,” Akins said. “This chosen momentum of development called for success and higher aspiration, and when I came to campus I was even more impressed by the commitment to the strategic plan in the people that I met. I can describe it as a palpable feeling of intentionality and dedication to the mission to enable students, faculty and staff to reach their full potential.”
As this new chapter in her life begins at UWG, Akins said she fondly anticipates aligning with the team and working toward shared goals.
“I’m most excited to work with an outstanding team focused on improvement and growth – creating something big, important and long-lasting,” she said. “Bold plans call for bold and audacious teams to make it a reality, and I find this momentum invigorating.”
Among other exciting, ambitious goals planned for her first year, Akins said she will coordinate with her team to continue to position the university as an innovative, comprehensive student-centered institution while nurturing and growing meaningful community partnerships and creating breakthrough opportunities for students.
“I would like to contribute to moving the learning process ahead and helping the university become the place of innovation that the country talks about,” she said. “When someone thinks of the University of West Georgia I want them to think, ‘Yes, they are leading in that, and yes they are the first to do this.’ When it comes to brand recognition, I want to help ensure we are rightfully recognized as a first-choice university.”