Julia M. Spears

  • Associate Vice Provost for Academic Innovation

Key Areas

Personalizing education • mentoring and advising initiatives • Pitt Commons • Personalized Education Seed Grants • seed funding for innovative ideas • student engagement • personalized education initiatives • Mentoring and Advising Summit

Associate Vice Provost Role

Julia Spears is responsible for further developing and executing the Personalized Education Initiative in the Office of the Provost and overseeing a suite of University-wide projects that support the Plan for Pitt.

Professional Biography

Prior to joining the University of Pittsburgh, served as associate director of the Barger Leadership Institute at the University of Michigan. Previously, she held the position of associate vice provost for engaged learning at Northern Illinois University, a position she was promoted to after serving as the founding director of the Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning. Nationally, Spears has served on the board for Undergraduate Research Program Directors for the Council on Undergraduate Research.

Education & Training

  • PhD in educational administration and higher education, Southern Illinois University
  • MPA, California State University, Long Beach
  • BA in sociology and speech communication, University of Washington

Representative Publications

  • Zobac, S., K. Smith, J. Spears, and D. Rode, “Need a Little TLC?: Incorporating First-Year Seminars in Themed Learning Communities.” In Building Synergy for High-Impact Educational Initiatives: First-Year Seminars and Learning Communities, edited by L.C. Schmidt, J. Graziano. Columbia, S.C.: National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition, 2016.  
  • Spears, J., S. Zobac, A. Spillane, and S. Thomas. “Marketing Learning Communities to Generation Z: The Importance of Face-to-Face Interaction in a Digitally Driven World.” Learning Communities Research 3, no. 1, Article 7 (2015). 
  • Downing, C., J. Spears, and M. Holtz. “Transforming a Course to Blended Learning for Student Engagement.” Education Research International, 2014. Article ID 430732. DOI: 10.1155/2014/430732 
  • Zobac, S., J. Spears, and G. Barker. (May, 2014). “Identical Profiles, Different Paths: Addressing Self-Selection Bias in TLC Cohorts.” Learning Communities Research and Practice 2, no. 1, Article 3 (2014). 

Research Interests

  • Student Engagement