CLEMSON — An experienced researcher, professor and leader at Michigan State University has been tapped to help generate more opportunities for the Clemson University research community.

Shelia Cotten will join Clemson University next fall as the associate vice president for research development and provost’s distinguished professor. She will manage the university’s Office of Research Development, which is part of the Division of Research under the leadership of Tanju Karanfil, vice president for research. She will also have a faculty appointment in the sociology, anthropology and criminal justice department and a joint appointment in the department of communication.

Cotten will collaborate with faculty and administrators across Clemson’s footprint to:

  • Establish and coordinate large multidisciplinary research projects that seek to address society’s grand challenges;
  • advance university-wide activities that support faculty training and development; and
  • generate new streams of research support from federal, state, foundation and other private sources.
Shelia Cotten

Shelia Cotten

“I am excited to join Clemson to help advance research across the university. Solving grand challenges in society requires diverse teams that can work together across disciplines,” Cotten said. “I see my role as a catalyst and connector. I am energized by bringing together diverse faculty, staff and students to find common passions and develop synergies so that they can solve important problems in society. I am excited to continue this work as the associate vice president for research development.”

Cotten is an MSU Foundation professor and associate chair for research in the Department of Media and Information at Michigan State. She served as director of the Sparrow/MSU Center for Innovation and Research, which built strategic research partnerships between MSU and the Sparrow Health System, and was the inaugural director of the MSU Trifecta Initiative for Interdisciplinary Health Research, a collaborative among the colleges of Engineering, Nursing, and Communication Arts and Sciences.

“Dr. Cotten has experience coordinating multidisciplinary teams, working on large-scale research projects, mentoring faculty members, working across diverse organizational cultures, securing research funding; I could go on,” Karanfil said. “She is an innovative thinker who will bring great ideas and leadership to the Clemson research community.”

Clemson University is listed among the nation’s most active research universities as a Carnegie R1 institution. Clemson’s research enterprise has grown significantly, with annual competitive research awards increasing 36 percent the past seven years to $106 million, while total annual research and development expenditures at Clemson have increased 40 percent over the past five years to $213 million.

“We are working hard to continue that momentum and to generate more opportunities for our faculty and students. Dr. Cotten will help implement new strategies that will be key to that effort,” Karanfil said.

Cotten earned her bachelor’s degree in sociology from Wake Forest University, followed by graduate work, including a PhD in sociology, at North Carolina State University, and a post-doctoral fellowship at Boston University School of Public Health in Boston and the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital in Bedford, Massachusetts.

Cotten is a Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America. She is a past chair of the Communication and Information Technologies Section of the American Sociological Association (CITASA) and the 2013 recipient of the Public Sociology Award from the CITASA section of the American Sociological Association. She is also co-editor of the Emerald Series in Media and Communications.

Her research focuses on the social, educational, health and workforce impacts of technology use. Cotten conducts large-scale community-based studies designed to use technology to enhance quality of life.

Through her career, Cotten has authored more than 110 peer-reviewed journal articles, proceedings and books and secured approximately $14 million in external research funding. In 2016, she was awarded the William F. Ogburn Senior Career Achievement Award from the Communication, Information Technologies, and Media Sociology (CITAMS) section of the American Sociological Association.

“I welcome Dr. Cotten to this important position at Clemson,” said Robert H. Jones, Clemson’s executive vice president for academic affairs and provost.  “Research provides invaluable educational opportunities for students while creating vital new knowledge to benefit local, national and global societies. Enhancing and expanding our research endeavors are important to our mission at Clemson.”