About Dr. Comstock
Dr. Jayne Marie (Jamie) Comstock became the 10th President of Winthrop University on July 1, 2013. She, her husband, Larry A. Williamson, and Cocoa, their 10-year-old Chesapeake retriever, now make the President's House at Winthrop their home.
Comstock's passion for higher education has long been found in the intersection of quality and access. Across her 30-year career, Comstock has inspired the delivery of quality higher education characterized by a blend of liberal arts, professional programs, global awareness, and civic engagement. As her blog, Advancing the Higher Education Agenda, illustrates, Comstock advocates that all students--regardless of demographic category or life experience--deserve this kind of quality education that an exceptional public institution like Winthrop offers. Her vision of Winthrop is of an institution on the rise, uniquely positioned to offer quality and access to deserving students. Under her leadership, Winthrop is redefining excellence in public higher education as "inclusive" rather than "exclusive," refusing to sacrifice quality, while opening doors to students who want to transform their opportunities through education.
Comstock has extensive experience as a senior-level academic administrator and a national reputation in the area of higher education leadership. Most recently, she served as the director of the Executive Leadership Group for American Council on Education (ACE), in Washington D.C. In this role, she prepared today's leaders for tomorrow's challenges by designing, developing, and delivering executive leadership programs for college and university presidents, chief academic officers, and other senior campus leaders. She continues her work with ACE through the Commission on Leadership. Appointed in April 2013, she will serve through March 2016.
Comstock is known as a collaborative leader who invigorates connections across constituency groups, uplifts the voice of faculty, staff, and students in decision-making processes, and manifests an unflappable commitment to diversity and gender equity. She has worked tirelessly in her first year to connect with Winthrop faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends to ensure that she understands their hopes and dreams for Winthrop's future. She has infused the campus community with her energy, and she has marshaled support for a collaborative campus-wide visioning process, the results of which will inform the university's strategic planning and priorities going forward. Comstock is an inspirational leader who is committed to advancing the university, assuring student success, and securing resources to make Winthrop's dreams a reality.
A frequent presenter at higher education conferences and events, Comstock is recognized as a leading expert in strategic planning and institutional effectiveness. She also brings a wealth of experience in promoting student retention and success, delivering academic programs that are both mission-driven and market-smart, directing campus activities to have local impact and global reach, and developing alternative sources of revenue to fund strategic goals.
An active and award-winning scholar throughout her career, Comstock has a distinguished publication record in the area of interpersonal communication in both personal and professional settings and on issues of import to higher education leadership. Her "QPC Model" is a broadly used, sophisticated structure for comprehensive academic program review involving an integrated analysis of program quality, potential, and cost.
A native of south-central Illinois, Comstock earned her Ph.D. in communication from the University of Arizona and holds bachelor's and master's degrees in communication from Illinois State University, where she was named among that institution's "outstanding alumni." She is a member of several honor societies, including Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi, and Omicron Delta Kappa, the national leadership honor society. She also was inducted into Phi Beta Delta in recognition for her achievement in expanding international education for each of the institutions she served.
Prior to joining ACE, Comstock served as the chief academic officer at three different universities, most recently in the role of provost and vice president for academic affairs at Butler University in Indianapolis, Ind. As Butler's provost, she facilitated the campus-wide strategic planning process, co-chaired a facilities master planning process, conducted comprehensive program reviews, and inspired an entrepreneurial environment that encouraged the development of new academic programs, expanded international initiatives, and enhanced local partnerships, particularly with public schools. One of the most significant contributions during her time at Butler was the creation of a new College of Communication. Comstock also served as Butler's interim president during the summers of 2009 and 2011.
Earlier in her career, Comstock served as vice president for academic affairs at Millikin University in Decatur, Ill., and as vice president and dean of the college at Baker University in Baldwin City, Kan. In addition, she held leadership positions in Saint Louis University's School for Professional Studies. Comstock first earned tenure and promotion at the University of West Florida in Pensacola, where she directed the organizational communication program and the Center for Leadership Development.
Throughout her career, Comstock has embraced and advanced student-centered education that blends liberal arts, professional programs, engaged learning, global education, and civic involvement. She was an early adopter of experiential learning and service learning pedagogies and received numerous teaching and advising awards in recognition of her innovative teaching style, engagement with students outside of class, service-learning initiatives, and for involving students in her research and consulting activities. First as a faculty member, then as an administrator, Comstock has worked to produce the essential learning outcomes that promote student intellectual achievement and professional success, while at the same time engendering a sense of social responsibility, global awareness, and the capacity to lead.
Even as a senior administrator, she continued to teach one class per year to stay in touch with students and remind herself that in decision-making, the first consideration must always be what is best for students.
Community service and leadership has always been a part of Comstock's professional and personal lifestyle. As Winthrop's president, she is a member of the Board of Directors of the Rock Hill Economic Development Corporation and the Winthrop Foundation. A sampling of her outreach activities in the past includes board membership for Junior Achievement and the YMCA; active committee work for chambers of commerce, pet shelters, economic development initiatives, and her church; and, various boards, commissions, and committees across the higher education landscape.
Comstock is supported in her work on Winthrop's behalf by husband Larry Williamson. Williamson has an extensive background in higher education administration as a former vice president for advancement, director of government relations, and executive director of a university foundation. He has taught political science courses at several universities, has served on the staff of a U.S. congressman, and is a retired U.S. Navy captain.