Stony Brook Alumna Nichole S. Prescott Joins UT System

Nichole S. PrescottSTONY BROOK, NY -- Stony Brook alumna Dr. Nichole S. Prescott, History ’15, joined the University of Texas System in December 2016 as Assistant Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, P16 Initiatives.

Prescott has a lead role in framing and implementing the Texas Prospect Initiative, the Chancellor’s Quantum Leap, which is designed to strengthen the preschool through college education pipeline and enhance college readiness for Texas students. To this end, Prescott will work to expand and deepen collaboration among the UT System, UT institutions, public preK-12 partners, and other entities.

“As a first-generation college student coming from an under-resourced and underperforming high school on the Texas-Mexico border, I really struggled as an undergraduate in college, but hit my stride in graduate school,” Prescott said. “I am very sensitive to the needs of struggling learners and understand the pressures and challenges faced by the teachers of those learners. So, part of the work I’ve been doing for the last several years, and will continue to do, is to try to build and align systems at the campus level, at the district level and then bridge with higher education, to better support our students and teachers to improve student outcomes.”

Before joining the UT System, Prescott served as the Director of Student Success for E3 Alliance, a regionally focused data-driven education organization. Her work centered on eliminating the achievement and opportunity gaps in Central Texas. As director, she oversaw a portfolio of initiatives aimed at building education systems through partnership with education, business, and community stakeholders.

“Most education systems work in isolation and so are not aligned well, causing leaks in the education pipeline and therefore in a student’s college readiness,” Prescott said. Ideally, when working properly, the pipeline will address students’ diverse individual needs through each segment, preparing them academically and socially for what comes next. “In this ideal scenario, that pipeline is undergirded and guided by K-12 teachers and administrators, higher education, and the community.”

As an educator, Prescott has worked with students at several points along the pipeline, and she believes that education needs to build self-efficacy as well as content knowledge. “Students need to be prepared to enter an unscripted and unknowable future,” she said. “Life and jobs evolve at an unprecedented rate. So education needs to be focused on skills that are transferable, no matter the context or content.” Students, she said, “need to hone their ability to weigh opposing arguments and to engage with some of life’s toughest challenges through an intellectual lens, in addition to their emotional lens.”

Prescott has a BA in history from UT Austin and a MA in history, with a certificate in women’s history, from Miami University. She earned both a MA in women’s studies and a PhD in history from Stony Brook University, where she was also a W. Burghardt Turner Fellow and recipient of the Department of History’s Hugh Cleland Award for Innovative Teaching.

"We are very proud of Nichole, who exemplifies the spirit of community that is so important to education at Stony Brook,” said Vice Provost for Graduate and Professional Education Charles Taber. “Her own story of struggle and achievement gives Nichole a lived understanding of the obstacles many students face in preparing for success in college and beyond that will serve her well in this new position."

Prescott credits her solid liberal arts education with preparing her for her current role. “Exposure to diversity – diverse ideas, people, language, culture and religion – helped me to see from different perspectives, even if I sometimes didn’t fundamentally agree with those perspectives,” she said. “No matter the differences among us, we can usually find a common objective to work toward. Since my job is dependent upon achieving strategic objectives, that is an invaluable skill.”

The success of her work, she said, depends on her ability to synthesize large amounts of data and research -- a skill she honed as a scholar. “I am currently responsible for reading highly complex material from varying sources, contextualizing it, understanding the ‘historiography,’ and then making programmatic or policy recommendations based upon my close reading of the material and my overall understanding of the broader conversations,” she said.

This parallels much of what historians do, she said, though her context is now education rather than 17th century Spanish women.

“Lastly, graduate school at Stony Brook made me comfortable in the role of learner even as I balance it with my role of expert in certain areas,” she says. “We must always be comfortable admitting when we don’t know something and never tie that lack of knowing to our worth as individuals or to our intelligence.”

To read more about Dr. Prescott’s work, visit the Graduate School website at http://bit.ly/2n3NXpp.