Aimee Franklin, SEU’s Dean of the College of Natural & Health Sciences, was recently selected as one of the winners of the 2023 Polk Emerging Leaders Award at the 12th annual award ceremony. More than 200 people from all around Polk County attended the event, along with 19 award nominees. We sat down with Dr. Franklin to hear her story and learn what she finds unique about SEU.
Answering The Call
When she first considered where to go to college, SEU was initially off the radar for Dr. Franklin. She was looking at various other schools to attend, but ultimately decided SEU was where she wanted to continue her education journey. She was a student from 2004 to 2007 and earned her bachelor’s degree in pre-medicine and biology in 2007. She received a PhD in neuroscience from the University of Alabama-Birmingham, and during that time, completed research on Fragile X Syndrome (FXS), the most commonly inherited form of autism. She returned to SEU in 2014 to teach as an associate professor of biology, leading her students in biomedical research projects. In 2021, SEU offered her the opportunity to be the dean of the College of Natural & Health Sciences. Dr. Franklin accepted, as she wanted to impact students with science, the field she is passionate about, and raise her family in the area. The feeling of being at home and the opportunity to continue serving students with her passion inspired Dr. Franklin to continue her story in Lakeland.
When starting her doctoral program at the University of Birmingham-Alabama, Aimee got involved in a program called Integrated Biomedical Sciences (study of the entire human body). Interested in research specifically, Dr. Franklin started a PhD program in science, but wasn’t sure what kind of research she wanted to do. After multiple lab rotations with different study focuses, neuroscience was the field she found the most exciting, as it included research on the brain, a research field of limited known knowledge. Every discovery she made was so rewarding that she decided to become an electrophysiologist, where she got to watch neurons fire and experiment on animals’ brains. “Watching neurons fire is definitely one of the coolest things, which definitely makes me a nerd,” Dr. Franklin jokes. “But, I’m convinced I can get anyone excited about electrophysiology!”
Higher Ed and a Higher Calling
After reflecting on an educational journey that led her from student to professor to dean, Aimee realized that each step in her career was planned and with a purpose even if she didn’t understand it at the time. “I didn’t know I wanted to be a professor or a dean,” explained Dr. Franklin. For a long time, Dr. Franklin thought she was going to go to medical school or have her own research lab, but the opportunities she received she never saw coming. “When I reflect back, I see I was being prepared at different stages of my career; I was being prepared for the position that I hold.” Aimee realized that God orders each step you take, and to undervalue the process of learning academically and spiritually is to forsake personal growth in your calling.
Celebrations Don’t Happen Overnight
Dr. Franklin is celebrating her tenth year on the faculty at SEU, and her third year as dean. When asked what her favorite part of being a professor at SEU is, Aimee said, “Interacting with students and mentoring students is the most life-giving and rewarding part of my job.”
Dr. Franklin explained that the opportunity to listen to students and watch them form their own ideas and thoughts is truly a unique experience. Ten years later, seeing alumni who have become SEU faculty members, professors, and professionals who have also gone on to have their own families is an amazing experience when she is able to reconnect with them.
Continue Your Journey With SEU
Aimee has shown that higher education and career paths can be found if you just lean into your passions and follow God.
We’re grateful to have deans and professors like Dr. Franklin as part of the Fire Family!
By David Jarrett, Student Writer