Inside Augusta Technical College: Our One-On-One with Executive Vice President Dr. Melissa Frank-Alston

Mollee D. Harper

Tuesday, August 28th, 2018

Georgia CEO recently visited with newly-appointed (and 13-year senior leadership veteran) Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs and Institutional Effectiveness & Research, Dr. Melissa Frank-Alston of Augusta Technical College (ATC). During our one-on-one, Dr. Frank-Alston shares about Augusta Tech’s involvement and future facilities in the Georgia Cyber and Innovation Center downtown, continuing education for staff, workforce development, advisory committees, curriculum warranties, as well as the HOPE Career Grant program offerings. 

On October 5, 2018, Dr. Melissa Frank-Alston will be going back to her alma mater of Penn State where she will be honored by the College of Education.  She will be receiving the Leadership & Service Award and will be the first leader from a two-year college to receive this award. 

Dr. Frank-Alston shared, “I joined Augusta Tech in 2005. I’ve been here for 13-years serving in a number of different roles. I was Senior Vice President for the past five years. As of July 1, 2018, I am now the Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs and Institutional Effectiveness & Research. I oversee all of the academic programs. We have four locations. I work with the deans and campus coordinators for those locations and help coordinate the planning for the academic programs at each location. I serve as the accreditation liaison, as well as oversee institutional effectiveness and institutional research.”

She continued, “Information Technology is also housed in my department. And, I oversee federal grants and professional development for all employees. We all have required hours for professional development. We do this to keep abreast of the latest educational and technological requirements, including safety awareness at the college level. All of our faculty and professional staff complete 70 hours depending on their particular field.”

Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) 

Dr. Frank-Alston explained, “Augusta Technical College is 1 of 22 colleges in the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG). Our primary mission is workforce development. We provide education and training for our citizens, so they can obtain jobs, which essentially builds a well-educated, globally-competitive workforce for Georgia.”

“The great thing about our system is that we can respond quickly to community demand and we do so at an affordable price with flexible scheduling with both day and evening offerings.” 

“A great example of how we’ve responded to our local workforce needs are the cybersecurity programs we offer to prepare students and encourage them to seek certification through industry recognized credentials such as CompTIA Security + and CISCO CCNA.“

Augusta Tech and Georgia Cyber 

Dr. Frank-Alston explained, “Augusta Technical College has experienced tremendous growth since the inception of the Associate Degree in Cybersecurity program. As you know we are a tenant in the Georgia Cyber Center in downtown Augusta. Next week, we begin our Fall semester. We are teaching 14 courses in cyber this semester. In the Spring, we’ll teach about 45 courses which will include our networking program courses. This semester we should have approximately 150 students and then next semester we’ll have 400 students at the Georgia Cyber Center.”

“We’ve seen tremendous growth in that program, and we anticipate even more growth now that we are moving to the Georgia Cyber Center, allowing us to offer the very best in cyber education from the State’s cyber hub.”

“We have been slowly moving our equipment over the summer. We have eight labs, two specific to CISCO networking. We also have a forensics lab, a cyber lab for operating system security, and three labs for other areas like penetration testing. We’ve been working hard all summer to order equipment, set up the labs and get ready to bring in our students.” 

“We’ll participate in the second grand opening for second building on Dec 18. It has been specifically designed for business and industry. This will be a great opportunity for our students in regards to internships and apprenticeships.”

She continued, “We are forecasting growth in other areas such as our k-12 partnerships and expansion of other academic programs at the college with a cyber-focus. We have an agreement with Richmond County School System where high school students can earn college credits. Three tracks are being offered – Associate Degree in Cybersecurity, CISCO Certified Network Certificate, and A+ and Microsoft Client Certificate.”

“In addition, we have collaborated with another school system in our service area, Columbia County School System to articulate nine semester credits of their high school cyber pathway which includes our Computer Concepts, Information Security Fundamentals and Network Security courses.” 

Advisory Committees

Dr. Frank-Alston offered, “Part of the uniqueness of Augusta Technical College and the Technical College System of Georgia are our educational programs that strengthen our workforce. In addition, we have our advisory committees, work ethics curriculum and warranty on the education.” 

“Each academic program has an advisory committee which meets twice a year and provides expertise and guidance from business representatives that review our curriculum, labs and equipment so we are keeping abreast of what is used in industry and have the latest and greatest labs for preparing our students. They make sure we keep up with the standards in what’s relevant today, so students gain training using the latest equipment they will use in their jobs upon graduation.”


Dr. Frank-Alston elaborated, “As a demonstration of our confidence in the quality of our academic programs, our system has a warranty or guarantee that states that graduates have demonstrated the knowledge and skills and can perform each competency as identified in the industry-validated standards. That means we stand by what we teach.”

“If a graduate is deemed not up to industry standards, employers can have that graduate return to the college to be retrained at no cost to the employer or the graduate within 18 months of graduation, including industry certification testing. We also retrain students who have graduated from ATC and if they’ve had some problem passing industry certification testing, we will retrain within 18 months upon graduation.” 

“We receive very few warranties, in fact, in the 13 years that I have been at ATC; we have only received three (3).” 

Work Ethics

“In addition, our system has work ethics curriculum where students in 

occupational programs are graded on ten (10) work ethics traits such as attendance, character, teamwork, appearance, attitude, productivity, organizational skills, communication, cooperation, and respect. For each course grade, a work ethics grade is recorded and is included in the student’s transcript. Employers can learn about the student’s’ grades as well as their work ethics from their academic transcripts.”


Dr. Frank Alston added, “The State of Georgia has provided free tuition for students who enroll in certain programs where there are more jobs than skilled workers to fill them. These range from welding, cyber related certificate jobs, pc repair, and many others. We are very excited to offer cyber training at the diploma level, as well as the certificate level.” 

“The HOPE CAREER GRANT allows us to provide free tuition to students for these programs. This is important to students who can receive multiple grants to help them get that degree that is in such high demand in Georgia. It also helps our local businesses find the talent they need.”  

Free tuition is available to HOPE Grant-qualified TCSG students who enroll in cyber related majors at the Diploma and Certificate level through the HOPE CAREER GRANT. This program is specifically aligned with industries in which there are more jobs available in Georgia than there are skilled workers to fill them. To learn more, visit:

Dr. Frank-Alston concluded, “I have worked at many different institutions. What I love about the Technical College System of Georgia is that we promote workforce development where students can come to us for a certificate or degree and go into the workforce or decide to attain additional education at a four-year institution. August Tech is the foundation for this community effort.” 

“We are very excited and proud to announce that The National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have designated Augusta Technical College as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Two-Year Education (CAE2Y) through academic year 2023.  Augusta Technical College is the first two-year institution in Georgia to hold the CAE2Y designation!! This is due in part to the leadership of our president, Terry D. Elam; our dean, Tammy O’Brien; our department chair, Jim Poarch and our cybersecurity faculty. This designation will provide the College with additional avenues for collaboration”.

Executive Bio

Dr. Melissa Frank-Alston has worked in the higher education sector for over twenty-five years at institutions ranging from small to large, public to private/sectarian, liberal arts to technical, and medical to research. 

Dr. Frank-Alston is currently the Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs/ Institutional Effectiveness & Research at Augusta Technical College in Augusta, 

Georgia. She has been with the College since 2005 and has served in many capacities including Senior Vice President, Vice President for Student Affairs and Vice President for Academic & Student Affairs. She currently serves as the college’s accreditation liaison to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), core team leader for the college’s Achieving the Dream initiative, and the faculty/staff representative on the Augusta Technical College Foundation.

Since 2010, Dr. Frank-Alston has collaborated with faculty, staff, administrators, and local business and industry partners to secure over $7.8 million to support student success efforts at Augusta Technical College. 

Dr. Frank-Alston holds a Ph.D. in Workforce Education & Development with an emphasis on Training/ Human Resources from Pennsylvania State University, a M.S. in College Student Personnel from Western Illinois University, and a B.A. in Anthropology from Northwestern State University of Louisiana. 

She is a 2007 graduate of Leadership Augusta and a 2014 graduate of the Technical College System of Georgia Executive Leadership Academy. During her employment at Pennsylvania State University, she was highlighted by “Town & Gown” magazine for the “Fifteen for the Future” selection showcasing professionals “on the move”.

Dr. Frank-Alston is currently serving as a 2017-2018 fellow with the Aspen Presidential Fellowship for Community College Excellence, a highly selective leadership program aimed at developing leaders capable of transforming student success at community colleges across the country.

For more information on Dr. Frank-Alston and Augusta Technical College and Technical College System of Georgia, visit