celia cook-huffman

Alumna Celia Cook-Huffman Begins New Job as Vice President of Academic Affairs

Chloe Leckrone

As students, faculty, and staff adjust to remote learning and working, Manchester alumna Dr. Celia Cook-Huffman has returned to campus and started a new job as vice president for Academic Affairs.

Cook-Huffman graduated from Manchester College, as she knew it, in 1986, with degrees in peace studies and conflict resolution and psychology. She has lots of memories of Manchester and is glad to be back in this familiar space. “There are faculty that I went to school with and some that I knew when I was on campus,” Cook-Huffman said. “Leonard Williams was one of my faculty when I was on campus.”

After graduating from Manchester, she pursued a Master’s degree in peace studies at Notre Dame University where she had a fellowship in the International Studies Program in the Joan Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. She then went on to receive her PhD from Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York.

For 30 years, Cook-Huffman worked at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, a sister school of Manchester, as professor of peace and conflict studies and sociology. She was the W. Clay and Kathryn H. Burkholder Supported Professor of Conflict Resolution.

Cook-Huffman grew up in Michigan and southern Ohio, so she is excited to return to the Midwest. “It is interesting to come back to the cornfields and leave the hills and mountains behind,” Cook-Huffman said. “I am looking forward to the sunsets––they can be hard to see in the mountains where we live now––and becoming reacquainted with the area.”

As vice president for Academic Affairs, Cook-Huffman will make sure the university’s mission is being achieved in all academic programs, curricular and co-curricular. She is excited to engage with the Manchester community in this way.

“I had a great undergrad experience at Manchester and look forward to being part of the team that brings strong and vibrant educational experiences to the next generation of MU students,” Cook-Huffman said.

She believes her peace studies education lends itself to this position because of her deep appreciation for interconnectedness and her need to understand. She also addressed the assumptions that people who study peace studies are always peaceful people, and how she is someone who focuses on conflict.

“Conflict is vital,” Cook-Huffman said. “We can get better at the everyday negotiations of life, and the more challenging negotiations.”

The current pandemic has ensured a non-typical transition to her new job. Because of national decisions to move to remote learning and working, Cook-Huffman’s reintroduction to campus has been unusual. Words she used to describe this transition are, “novel, unexpected, challenging, trial-by-fire.”

Despite this rocky start, Cook-Huffman has felt welcomed by her colleagues and the wider community. “Those working with me have ensured that I have the information I need to be able to fully engage in decision-making as we work to address the shifting realities caused by the spread of the virus,” she said. “Joining in the midst of a crisis reveals core values really quickly.”

Cook-Huffman wants the community to know that she is empathetic toward everyone adjusting to remote learning and working, as she, her husband and her children are all experiencing these same changes. Still, she is hopeful about the future and is excited to connect with students in whatever ways she can.

“I look forward to getting to know students virtually in this moment and face to face as we come back together––learning from them about their Manchester experiences, how they understand, experience and contribute to MU,” Cook-Huffman said.