University of Iowa officials plan for change from previous roles

At a reception on Monday night for the farewell of VP of Student Life Melissa Shivers, students, faculty, and staff came together to celebrate. Shivers departure comes shortly after the considerations and announced departures of three other UI officials.

Vice+President+for+Student+Life+Melissa+Shivers+waves+to+an+attendee+during+her+farewell+ceremony+in+the+IMU+on+Monday%2C+Dec.+9%2C+2019.+Shivers+will+be+moving+to+the+Ohio+State+University+in+January.+

Katie Goodale

Vice President for Student Life Melissa Shivers waves to an attendee during her farewell ceremony in the IMU on Monday, Dec. 9, 2019. Shivers will be moving to the Ohio State University in January.

Alexandra Skores, News Editor

A line of Hawkeyes extended outside the door of the IMU Second Floor Ballroom on Monday with people eager to offer their well-wishes and extend warm embraces to Vice President for Student Life Melissa Shivers before she prepares to take on a new role at Ohio State University.

The University of Iowa held a farewell ceremony to honor Shivers’ contributions to the institution before her departure to OSU to serve as its vice president for Student Life, effective Jan. 6.

“I feel fulfilled,” Shivers told The Daily Iowan. “My career has been incredibly focused on students and their experiences, and tonight to hear some of the impact that I and the Division of Student Life was able to make on the lives of the students meant absolutely everything to me. I feel fortunate and very lucky.”

RELATED: UI Vice President for Student Life Melissa Shivers named Ohio State University VP

Shivers’ departure comes shortly after a few other high-profile announcements of administrative changes within the UI — Tippie College of Business Dean Sarah Gardial and resigned Associate Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion TaJuan Wilson.

Katie Goodale
Vice President for Student Life Melissa Shivers hugs UI alum Fredrick Cherry Jr. after his speech during the farewell ceremony for Shivers in the IMU on Monday, Dec. 9, 2019. Shivers will be moving to the Ohio State University in January.

While Shivers said the timing of those departures may cause some to draw a loose connection regarding the turnover among the UI’s top ranks, Shivers said this isn’t new or different in higher education. She didn’t support the perception that those departures were related.

“Within higher education, people are able to successfully navigate places, and they also are recruited away to other places — it’s very common place,” Shivers said. “It’s not as if it is new or different.”

RELATED: Associate VP for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion resigns: ‘It is not the right fit for me at this time’

In August, the UI announced Wilson’s resignation just two months after he assumed the position. Wilson then shifted roles to the External Relations Office while maintaining his original salary.

Shortly after news of Shivers’ departure, the UI announced Gardial would leave for to become the dean of the Massey College of Business at Belmont University in March 2020.

Tippie Associate Dean Kenneth Brown spoke with DI about his plans for “a new challenge.” In October, Brown was in consideration to lead the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs business school.

However, the university recently made an offer to Brown for the dean position, and he said he declined. He also sought the UI’s role as dean of International Programs, a role which the UI announced Dec. 5 that former Faculty Senate President Russ Ganim would soon assume.

Katie Goodale
Vice President for Student Life Melissa Shivers listens to UI President Bruce Harreld during the farewell ceremony for Shivers in the IMU on Monday, Dec. 9, 2019. Shivers will be moving to the Ohio State University in January.

Nonetheless, Brown said, “I am staying here for now.”

“I am focusing on opportunity on campus,” he said. “I am hoping there is an opportunity for me to stay and continue to contribute with the way that have been — which is focusing on students and student success, the way I have been.”

RELATED: Tippie Dean Sarah Fisher-Gardial to lead Belmont University’s business school

UI President Bruce Harreld told the DI that institutions including the UI could do a better job of searching internally for qualified candidates to take on new leadership roles, offering workers a chance to move up the ranks and not feel limited.

He told the audience at Shivers’ farewell party the departures are a “tough moment for the university.”

But, he told the DI that part of his job is to train talent. He said there is a need to recruit and retain a strong administrative team, to pay leaders well, and to also build them up so they can take on bigger challenges to grow in their areas of expertise — as he said Shivers will do in her new role as a Buckeye.

“This institution has always been a feeding ground and source for long-term leadership and it will always be that way,” Harreld said. “We are smaller, we have really good people, and we have a great team here.”

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