Shari Fox has an energy that’s contagious. There’s a fast-talking liveliness about the O’More College of Design executive vice president that can carry her from school administrator to associate professor to academic tutor to Student Government Association liaison—all in one breath.
“She’s tireless,” said Amy Shelton, vice president of student affairs. “Shari is a high energy person who can do it all.”
Fox taught her first English composition class as a Middle Tennessee State University graduate student when she was 21 years old. She says that within 10 minutes, she knew education was her future.
“My goal was to find a career that crafted a meaningful life through love and service to other people,” she said. “Education was the perfect fit, because each decision I make is in the interest of the students.”
Now, Fox has been at O’More for 17 years—longer than any other faculty member at the elite design college in downtown Franklin. She’s held six different titles while raising five children with David, her husband of 19 years. She’s gone from “pestering the dean into giving her an instructor’s position” in 1995 to becoming the dean herself at age 30. After scaling back her role at the school to concentrate on the family for a few years, Fox is now second in command at O’More: she is in charge of all regulatory compliance issues and oversees all departments and instructors.
“I just as likely will be working on an accreditation report as I will be serving wine at the Franklin Art Scene or talking to a student in our café,” Fox said. “I’m also the person who students come to when they don’t know where else to go. And I love all that I’m doing.”
Fox’s says her role at the College allows her to form a bond with the students while maintaining an authoritative voice at the school.
“Because we’re such a small institution, we get to know the students on all different levels,” she said. “I have a warm relationship with the students, but they still respect my position.”
The administrator says that one of the most inspiring components of her job is to watch the College shape its students into gifted industry professionals.
“We’ve always said what we provide in the classroom is what we do best here,” Fox said. “We take these students with raw talent and polish them into professionals who use their creativity as their livelihood. That’s an incredible thing.”
Since Fox held her first position at the College, she says she has seen the school grow into a robust breeding ground for sought-after designers.
“We’ve become more respected with each passing year, and I can prove that with the jobs our students are getting,” she said. “We also enjoy extremely high placement rates that would be the envy of many academic institutions.”
Currently, Fox is working on adding new programs to the school.
“It’s been all positive progress in our educational programs since I started at the College,” she said. “In these particular proposed expansions, we’re keeping the heart of O’More consistent.”
Fox says that O’More’s location is one of its great advantages, affecting not only the atmosphere of the college, but also its students’ talents.
“There are a lot of design schools, but none that have our environment and character,” Fox said. “We have an historical campus and an industrial studio that shape a powerful, collaborative energy. I believe the aesthetic that surrounds the College forms our designers’ sensibilities.”
Personally, Fox said it’s always been a goal to reside in Franklin.
“I remember driving in downtown Franklin when I was 6 years old and thinking, ‘I’m going to live here one day,’” Fox said.
“I’m so proud of how Franklin has grown. It’s a small town that has this progressive vibe. It embraces creativity on all levels, and that’s why O’More fits so perfectly here.”
To learn more about O’More College of Design, visit omorecollege.edu.
This is part of a series on merchants in Downtown Franklin. To read more, visit www.downtownfranklintn.com.