The University of Lynchburg named Alison Morrison-Shetlar as its 11th president Monday morning in Hall Campus Center making her the first woman president of the 116-year-old school.
Her term will begin in July 2020 after the retirement of Kenneth R. Garren, who has served as president since 2001. His contract expires at the end of June 2020.
Originally from Scotland, Morrison-Shetlar has taught at universities there as well as in London and Germany before coming to teach in the United States in 1993.
In 2014, Morrison-Shetlar became the provost at Western Carolina University. While leading Western Carolina’s academic program through a time of expansion, she also served in other capacities — including 18 months as interim chancellor and nine months as interim vice chancellor for development and alumni engagement. Her accomplishments at Western Carolina include implementation of the NC Promise Tuition plan; development of innovative new academic programs; completion of a successful, comprehensive fundraising campaign; and management of the campus through a period of constant construction and growth in the student body.
She also has held leadership roles as dean of Elon College of Arts and Sciences at Elon University, vice provost and dean of undergraduate studies at the University of Central Florida, and director of faculty development at Georgia Southern University.
She said it is an honor to follow Garren after his 19 years of dedication in leading the school.
“His legacy and significant contributions to this university will live on for generations to come,” she said.
Garren announced his retirement in Aug. 2018, and a 17-member search committee began to speak with prospective candidates this past summer.
Nathaniel Marshall, chair of the University of Lynchburg Board of Trustees, said the university’s search committee had between 80 and 100 applicants for the position.
“Dr. Morrison-Shetlar is accomplished as both an educator and a leader in private and public higher education,” Marshall said. “She has shown a commitment to quality teaching, research, and collaborative leadership. We are excited to work with her and to introduce her to our students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of the university in the coming year.”
Bryan Gentry, director of communications at UL, said there were four finalists in the presidential search but said the names were confidential.
Over the last several weeks Morrison-Shetlar has met with faculty, staff, students and alumni to tour the campus.
“You all have a passion for this place and it showed,” she said. “It was students who were eager to tell me how much they love being at this university and how much they value the support and experiences they are afforded by the faculty and staff. It was the faculty and staff and alumni who care about our students and guarantee the quality of the student’s experiences in and outside of the classroom.”
She said she was drawn to the role of president because she believes in the values of Lynchburg and the breadth and depth of the innovative strategic plan the school has, which she said will be a blueprint for continued success.
“The values of academic rigor, active learning, a commitment to student success, integrity, diversity, community and wellness. These ensure that we instill the intrinsic and extrinsic motivators that differentiate the University of Lynchburg experience from other universities,” she said.
She spoke of the undergraduate and graduate programs which make for diversification to ensure the university’s ongoing success.
“Supporting for success for all of us is in my DNA and I strive to provide an environment where everyone can meet their maximum potential,” she said. “Together I know we will continue the forward and upward momentum of this great university with strong teaching, research and mentoring: a keystone to developing all of us into the people that we want to become and need to be to influence the future of our state, our nation and our world.”
Barbara Yauss, a senior and Beatrice Kelly-Russo, a junior, are both representatives on the university’s Ethics Bowl, a debate team focusing on ethical issues.
They stood in line, along with other students, faculty and staff, to meet Morrison-Shetlar Monday afternoon in the Drysdale Student Center because they wanted to make sure she knew about their team and the funding they would need to support future competitions.
Kelly-Russo said Garren has been very helpful to the team in the past and she hopes Morrison-Shetlar will continue that legacy.
Yauss said having her on board is monumental as the first female president.
“This is huge. Not just ethically but also for diversity so this is amazing,” she said.
Deanna Cash, an associate professor for the College of Education, Leadership Studies and Counseling, brought a group of her freshmen students to meet the president in the Drysdale Center.
One of the topics she has been discussing with them in their Freshman Seminar class is citizenship and she felt it was the perfect opportunity for her students to take an active role in the place that will shape their lives over the next four years and to meet the woman who will be leading them.
Cash said she was thrilled the university named a woman to be the president and that the school is ready for some change.
“We’ve always been progressive but this is an even more progressive step,” she said. “And we look forward to all of the change that will come about with this new president.”
Adita Pertica, a freshman in Cash’s class, said she felt it was important to meet Morrison-Shetlar because of the role she plays on campus.
“You want to have that family feel so we wanted to welcome her and get to know her,” she said. “It’s going to make a big difference in the community, especially because this is our first female president. So it’s important she feels welcome here and feels like there’s a family here and even though she may be above us, she still has students to rely on.”
Brycen Stratton, another freshman in Cash’s class, said UL will be his home over the next four years and it’s important to get involved with administration and to know who they are.
“And saying, ‘Hey, we’re here. This is what we want. How can we work this out with you?’ And it’s very important to have that channel of communication,” he said.
Kathryn Pumphrey, a trustee and lead co-chair of the Presidential Search Committee, said there were many highly qualified candidates interviewed but ultimately it was Morrison-Shetlar’s qualifications that matched the university perfectly.
“Allison brings with her a diverse skill set, which includes collaborative leadership, a strong academic background, fundraising acumen and a deep understanding of the opportunities and challenges facing higher education today,” Pumphrey said Monday morning.
She added Morrison-Shetlar has extensive administrative and leadership experience in higher education and brings a wealth of international experience.
“Allison is accomplished as both an educator and a leader in both public and private education,” she said. “She has shown a commitment to quality teaching, research and collaborative leadership. We’re truly excited about working with her.”
Morrison-Shetlar begins on July 1 and President Garren finishes at the end of July.
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