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VP for Student Development Search

Saint Louis University is deeply committed to the success of our students. Central to this commitment is the Division of Student Development. It is with enthusiasm that I announce the launch of our national search for SLU’s next Vice President for Student Development.

This new leader must be a visionary when it comes to understanding and meeting the changing needs of our students. I expect the search committee members to bring forward a diverse pool of candidates who reflect the demographics of the student body in the years to come, as well as those who will understand and embody our Catholic, Jesuit mission about educating the whole person. 

As I have shared with the search committee, hiring this leader is a top university priority. The committee will be led by Doug Williams, SLU law professor and co-director of the Operational Excellence Program. I am pleased to announce the following individuals have agreed to serve on the search committee: 

Jon Baris, Assistant Dean, School of Law
Christopher Collins, S.J., Assistant to the President for Mission and Identity
Ruth Evans, President, Faculty Senate
Maleah Fallahi, President, Student Government Association; Senior, Political Science and American Studies Major
Kelly Herbolich, Director, Academic Support
Janet Oberle, Associate Director, Athletics
Mark Pousson, Assistant Professor, School of Education
Joe Reyes, Rainbow Alliance President; Honors Learning Community Alumnus; Junior, English and Political Science Major
Jonathan Smith, Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement
Manisha Ford-Thomas, Director, Housing and Residence Life
Martha Uhlhorn, Trustee
Doug Williams, Professor, School of Law (committee chair)
SGA President-elect, to be selected on February 25 

The search committee is supported by Spelman Johnson, a nationally-recognized, higher education search firm. Spelman Johnson Vice President Valerie Szymkowicz, a specialist in searches for student development and student affairs leadership, will lead the firm’s participation. Valerie has extensive experience working with Jesuit colleges and universities. 

Reporting Structure Changes 

It is important to note that the next Vice President for Student Development will, once hired, report to the Provost. I will continue to work closely with this individual, who will still serve on the President’s Cabinet and continue to have a direct relationship with the Board of Trustees. You can be certain that I will continue to frequently meet with students as we collaboratively strive for excellence in these critical areas. Former Vice President Kent Porterfield and former Dean of Students Mona Hicks had been proponents of the reporting change. Both saw the advantages of having the division formally integrated into the academic structure of the University, and I agree. 

More formal collaboration with the academic units of the University could and should yield tremendous benefits. We see great potential to create synergies between the student experience both inside and outside of the classroom that promote student success – a top priority for our institution. 

Additionally, by working alongside the Provost’s Office, the Vice President for Student Development and division staff will be ideally positioned to better address the critical issues facing our students. This includes the development of an integrated, community-based approach for delivering mental health care and supportive services to our more than 12,500 undergraduate and graduate/professional students. 

The Search Committee’s Charge               

The goal is for our next Vice President to start on July 1, 2020. With that timeline in mind, I have asked for the search committee to begin work immediately to identify a short list of candidates who will come to campus this spring for interviews and discussions with you — the University community. Following those on-campus interviews and feedback collection, I will make the final hiring decision. 

In the meantime, Interim Vice President for Student Development Debra Lohe will continue to lead the division and help activate improvements to student services and programming that have been prioritized by Student Development staff and student leaders. 

Thank you in advance for participating in the hiring process. I am confident that because of the university you have built and the culture you have fostered, the search committee will generate a strong pool of mission-focused finalists to visit our campus. 


Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D.