Wearing multiple hats can often be referred to as a juggling act; a skill only a few can master.
Skilled at balancing several tasks, Fort Valley State University associate professor Dr. Vivian Fluellen believes that teamwork is the key. Her rack of hats display 37 years of challenges and triumphs.
Officially retired June 1, Fluellen is a leader inside and outside the classroom. In addition to teaching, she served as interim program leader for FVSU’s Cooperative Extension Program, executive director for the Head Start and Early Head Start programs and director of the Family Development Center and Quality Child Care Center Complex on campus. Her leadership roles expanded when she acquired the chair of the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) in 2013.
“It is a challenge wearing all of these various hats, but the people I work with make my job easier. We do it together,” Fluellen said.
Her journey to the Historically Black College and University (HBCU) began a few miles away in Dublin, Georgia. Growing up with parents who gardened and preserved food, she first became interested in home economics after learning to sew in high school.
Her mother initially taught her the technique. Fluellen improved her craft and began making clothes for her mother and three sisters, as well as bridal and prom dresses for family members.
“I was always a crafty person and liked to do things with my hands,” she said.
A people person, Fluellen quickly realized that she wanted to pursue a career in FCS. Her leadership skills developed early as a child while actively serving in her hometown church. She further gained strong work ethics from her mother and father, an entrepreneur who sold vegetables from his vehicle. “You have to work for what you want to earn,” Fluellen said.
Applying the same determination to her education, the former Future Homemakers of America (FHA) member graduated from FVSU with a bachelor’s degree in FCS education. She received her master’s degree from Iowa State University in textiles and apparel and completed a certificate program for family financial planning at the same institution. She also received her doctorate in FCS education from Iowa State.
Fluellen’s career in FCS began in 1976 as a clothing and textile instructor with the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. She then worked as a textile designer with J.P. Stevens and Company Inc. in her hometown for four years. This led to her applying for a textile and clothing teaching position with her alma mater after hearing about the opening from a friend.
“The college needed an instructor to teach clothing and textiles,” she said. “I love working with students and helping them to reach their goals as they become productive citizens in society.”
Fluellen worked in this capacity for a year and later received a joint appointment for the Cooperative Extension Program as a clothing and textile specialist. “Once I started working with Cooperative Extension, I enjoyed the informal education as well and making a difference in people’s lives,” she said.
During her tenure, the FVSU alumna accomplished several goals, including establishing the department’s reaccreditation with the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (AAFCS), securing more than $5 million in external funding in grants and contracts for the university and developing six online courses for the 1890 Family and Consumer Sciences-Distance Instructional Alliance (FCS-DIA) Family Financial Planning Certificate Program.
In addition, Fluellen wrote several publications and served on various committees. Among her awards, she received recognition for developing the FCS-DIA program. She is a Silver Circle recipient for serving the Georgia Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (GAFCS) for more than 25 years.
Fluellen said FVSU’s FCS program is thriving because of the educational services provided to students and the community. She advises students in the program to stay focused and listen. “Keep your eye on the prize. There are going to be some challenges along the way, but hold fast to your dreams,” Fluellen said.
The recent retiree plans to travel, spend time with her family and exercise. Continuing her efforts to serve others, she wants to volunteer with programs helping youth and senior citizens and participate in missionary work. As a member of Kings Chapel Memorial Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church in Perry, Georgia, she serves as the president of the Missionary Board and secretary of the Stewardess Board.
As she starts this new adventure, Fluellen recalls her teaching experience at FVSU. “I enjoyed it and would not trade it for the world,” she said.
Fluellen is married to Jared Fluellen Sr., FVSU’s farm manager. They have three adult children, Bernail Fluellen, Jarielle (Anthony) Carter and Jared Fluellen Jr., and a granddaughter, McKenna Elizabeth Lee Carter.
For more information about FVSU’s Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, visit https://ag.fvsu.edu/departments/family-and-consumer-sciences.