Meet Dr. Juliette B. Bell

  • UMES-President Juliette B. BellDr. Juliette B. Bell is the University of Maryland Eastern Shore’s 15th leader since its founding in 1886, and the fourth woman to hold the post.

    The announcement of her selection March 7, 2012 culminated a two-decade journey through the ranks of higher education that began at Fayetteville (N.C.) State University for the biochemist who grew up in rural Alabama 50 miles east of Birmingham, the state’s largest city.

    Bell calls the opportunity to be UMES president a "dream come true."

    "God is good. I'm truly honored and humbled. This is an opportunity I will not take for granted," she said.

    Bell has a wealth of experience as a hands-on teacher and researcher. She is known as an educator who encourages students to pursue science, engineering and mathematics as a career.

    UMES alumni welcomed her by creating a new academic incentive award to recognize students who excel in science, technology, engineering or math. Recipients will be upperclassmen who demonstrate an aptitude in scientific research and a commitment to advancing the number of minorities and women pursuing careers in those disciplines.

    Bell leads a 4,500-student institution where roughly half the graduates are just like her – the first in their families to earn a college degree. She credits her late parents, who emphasized the importance of education, with instilling in her a work ethic that has served her well as an adult.

    She graduated as valedictorian of her class, earning a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Talladega (Ala.) College in her hometown. She received her Ph.D. in chemistry with a biochemistry concentration from Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University) and did postdoctoral work in biochemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

    Following her post-doctoral fellowship, she worked as a senior staff fellow and research biologist at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park, N.C.

    Under the guidance of Dr. Thomas Kunkel, a senior scientist there, Bell studied an enzyme responsible for linking together the billions of building blocks that make DNA, the genetic code. She was one of the first to identify ways to manipulate that enzyme to measure its ability to make DNA accurately under a variety of natural and experimental conditions. This work is important in understanding genetic disorders and diseases, such as cancer.

    In 1992, she accepted an appointment as a chemistry professor and director of biomedical research at Fayetteville State University. She also pursued her scientific interests with a National Science Foundation Young Investigator Award from 1993 to1998 and a Minority Biomedical Research Support grant from the National Institutes of Health.

    Bell made full professor at Fayetteville State in 1998, directed its Biomedical Research Program (1993-2006) and established the Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (2002-2006) program, aimed at preparing students to pursue careers in biomedical sciences. She was founding dean of the university’s College of Basic and Applied Sciences from 2004 to 2006 and provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs from 2006-2008.

    While on sabbatical leave from Fayetteville State during the 2008-09 academic year, Bell served a six-month appointment as interim chief academic officer at Winston-Salem State, where she secured an endowed professorship in physical therapy and implemented academic program review.

    In August 2009, Bell was named chief academic officer at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio, a historically black institution with an enrollment of 2,500 students.

    At Central State, she oversaw the academic agenda, including improving student performance, developing new programs and enhancing academic excellence. She restructured the academic colleges to create the first College of Science and Engineering, developed an academic unit to support retention of freshmen and transfer students, oversaw the implementation of the university's first online courses and enhanced international education programming.

    During her first visit to campus after her selection was announced, Bell pledged to the UMES community that she's up to the task of converting "challenges into opportunities."

    Bell has served on the National Science Foundation's Biological Sciences Advisory Board and as a consultant to the American Association of Colleges and Universities.

    Among her honors: the 2001 National Role Model Citation from Minority Access, Inc. and the 2000 Millennium Award for Excellence in Teaching in Mathematics, Science, Engineering and Technology at Historically Black Colleges from the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

    "Defying Tradition-African American Women in Science and Technology," a 2000 exhibit at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, featured Bell along with other prominent African American women, including astronaut Mae Jemison and former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders.

    Bell is a graduate of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Millennium Leadership Institute and the Harvard Institute for Education Management.

    Her husband, Willie, is a retired police chief and a consultant who specializes in advising college administrators on campus security. She has two adult children and four grandchildren.

    She took office July 1, 2012.