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Director of the Office of Student Success
Learning and Career Commons, Room 122
Academic Success Center
B.S., University of Central Missouri
M.S., Murray State University
Ed.S., Tennessee Technological University
Ph.D., Tennessee Technological University

Dr. Cindy Freer Conley is the Director of the Office of Student Success.  Dr. Conley provides leadership to a team that works to provide additional academic support to the CU student body.  Dr. Conley also teaches Foundations of Scholarship and Learning as well as courses within the Psychology Program. Dr. Conley began as an Adjunct at Cumberland University in the Psychology Program in the Spring of 2022.

Dr. Conley holds a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice with a minor in Psychology from Central Missouri State University. She holds a Master of Science in Human Services Counseling from Murray State University and a Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction from Tennessee Technological University. Dr. Conley also holds an Educational Specialist in School Counseling as well as in Instructional Leadership. Dr. Conley achieved her terminal degree, a Ph. D. from Tennessee Technological University in Exceptional Learning with a concentration in Applied Behavior Analysis.

Dr. Conley has had an extensive career in the mental health and educational fields. She has worked as a private practice counselor as well as worked as a School Counselor in Wilson and Rutherford County School Districts. She continues to work part time with youth in the foster care system as a Licensed Behavior Analyst.

Dr. Conley’s research interests include how community partners and educational settings provide services to adolescents at risk. Along with how the application of Applied Behavior Analysis can assist students who are unsuccessful increase their success in academic and social settings.

Dr. Conley is a wife, mother, and grandmother. She and her family live with their fur babies in the Wilson/Rutherford County area. Free time activities always include the kids and/or the fur babies.


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University Chaplain and Assistant Professor
(615) 453-6347
Learning and Career Commons, Room 121
Academic Success Center
The Millard and JJ Oakley School of Humanities, Education and the Arts
B.A., Rhodes College
M.Div., Emory University
D.Min., Emory University

Dr. Mike Ripski is a retired ordained minister in the United Methodist Church. He served congregations in West and Middle Tennessee for 40 years. He then became a faculty member and University Chaplain at Cumberland University. During his career, Dr. Ripski has taught classes in philosophy, Bible, English, and religion. He previously was an adjunct instructor at the University of Tennessee, Martin.

In addition to serving as Cumberland University Chaplain, Mike teaches classes in the First Year Experience (FSL) and the Bible as Literature. Dr. Ripski is responsible for administering the Compassion Fund that provides food and other necessities for individuals in need in the Cumberland community.

Dr. Ripski coordinates Chapel Chats for the University community which are required by first-year students as part of the FSL course. During these Chats, students, faculty, and staff are invited to address the theme: “Everyone has a story. This is mine.” Chapel Chats may also address controversial issues with goal to model “civil discourse.”

Dr. Ripski wrote the Foundations and Learning curriculum that, while undergoing several mutations in recent years, still provides guidance for students as they begin their college journey.


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Academic Coach and Instructor
LLC 203
Academic Success Center, Office of Enrollment, Admissions, and Student Financial Services
B.A., Education, University of South Florida
M.B.A., Systems Management, Florida Institute of Technology

Gary Heartfield has been an Adjunct Professor since the Fall Semester 2019 in the Labry School of Science, Technology & Business where he has taught undergraduate Microcomputer Application, Principles of Information Systems, Introduction to Business and Business Communication. Prior to coming on board at Cumberland University, he was employed in the telecommunications Industry for over 30 years. He has worked as a National Account Manager for both wired and wireless fiber optic equipment sales and has had a career in Supply Chain Management and Equipment Planning for a major Telecom Corporation. He has an instructional background in College and High School Algebra and Computer Programming. He also helped in the development of the Palm Beach County Computer programming curriculum.

As one of the new Academic Coaches at Cumberland I will be focusing on students within the Labry School of Science, Technology & Business. We work with the student to help them with academic and career goal setting, learning strategies, time management, and organizational skill sets. Our goal is to help the student formulate positive and effective habits that lead to academic, professional and personal success.