The Position

Responsibilities of the Position

Saint Louis University (SLU) seeks an experienced, collaborative, and student-focused leader to serve as the assistant vice president and dean of students (AVP/DOS). This senior-level administrator is responsible for inspiring, leading, and supervising critical functional areas that respond to students’ needs and support their development during their time at SLU. They are charged with leading the development of a thoughtful and holistic crisis response plan, case management, managing and maintaining community standards, comprehensive family engagement, and fostering meaningful co-curricular engagement opportunities. A demonstrated commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion –– including ensuring our protocols, services, and practices are culturally sensitive and actively anti-racist –– is a critical expectation of the individual joining the university in this leadership role.

Under the direction of the vice president for Student Development, the AVP/DOS provides leadership and oversight for Student Responsibility and Community Standards, the Dean of Students Office, student support services, and parent and family support services. The AVP/DOS also oversees the university’s case management system, enabling SLU to assist students experiencing serious psychological and behavioral issues. The AVP/DOS will serve on the Division of Student Development senior leadership team. This leader will also manage the Division of Student Development’s on-call response team; work closely on a variety of student issues with faculty, academic leaders, and others across the university; and assist the vice president for Student Development in developing and implementing strategic planning and special projects for the Division of Student Development. In addition to helping to support a motivated and innovative team of Student Development staff, the AVP/DOS will help ensure that the division is versed in best practices and on the leading edge with respect to the holistic student educational experience, reflective of SLU’s Catholic, Jesuit identity.

Specific duties and responsibilities as outlined in the job description include:

  • Serving as the vice president’s designee, as needed, in certain meetings and spaces.
  • Supervision of the Dean of Students Office and the directors and other functional areas reporting through the Dean of Students Office, including Office of Student Responsibility and Community Standards, family and parent programs, academic support services, and Dean of Students Office case managers.
  • Providing oversight for the university’s Behavioral Concerns Committee and threat assessment team.
  • Implementing and enforcing appropriate supervisory control throughout the portfolio and exercising consistent and objective employee relations standards and practices to assign, schedule, review, evaluate, motivate, and, when necessary, address discipline with staff.
  • Conducting leadership and management training programs for professional staff and student leaders in partnership with other educational units.
  • Developing, planning, and implementing short- and long-range goals for the Division of Student Development and the units within it.
  • Creating, coordinating, facilitating, and evaluating policies and procedures related to crisis response and case management, and creating methods for ongoing needs assessment for student organization support and services.
  • Fostering an inclusive space for the campus community and loved ones to engage with.
  • Working some non-traditional hours and weekends and being on-call.
  • Developing vital collaborative relationships with campus administrative areas, faculty, and campus and community leaders to enhance planning and implementing strategic initiatives, resolve issues, and respond to crisis incidents.
  • Providing direction and intervention for students in crisis and non-crisis, including intervening with mental health staff, providing advocacy, and working with staff, faculty, and students affected by crisis.
  • Serving as a member of the university’s Bias Incident Response Team (BIRT) to assess, evaluate, and determine whether reported incidents constitute alleged violations of university policy and/or community standards.
  • Providing leadership and guidance in analyzing, reviewing, creating, and interpreting student policies and procedures.
  • Serving as a member of the Student Development senior leadership team; serving on university-wide committees as designated. Preparing and submitting reports as required.
  • Participating in the setting of strategic priorities for the division.
  • Actively seeking innovative technologies for program development and implementation.
  • Overseeing the development and administration of budgets of units within the AVP/DOS portfolio, ensuring that expenses are consistent with the priorities reflected in the division and university.
  • Outreach to students and families during natural disasters, crisis incidents, or tragic events.
  • Communicating regularly and in a timely manner with the vice president for Student Development, Behavioral Concerns Committee, threat assessment team, and division leadership staff on related matters.
  • Providing official communications to students, as required by the role and in collaboration with the vice president for Student Development, Office of the President, Office of the Provost, and the university’s marketing and communication departments.


Qualifications and Characteristics

The position requires a master’s degree (doctorate preferred) and at least eight years of progressive leadership experience in higher education administration. The ideal candidate will possess working knowledge of crisis management in the context of student affairs and extensive experience working in or with a Dean of Students office.

Specific qualifications listed in the institutional job description include the following:

  • Ability to effectively serve as a mentor, supervisor, and support person to staff.
  • A strong record of success as a supervisor, including but not limited to performance evaluation, professional development, setting individual and team goals, and assessment of performance effectiveness of multiple functional areas.
  • Demonstrated effectiveness as a culturally competent professional with broad experience interfacing with and supporting the needs of a diverse student population.
  • Highly effective in all aspects of crisis management, including the ability to work collaboratively with others in managing crises. Excellence as a manager of complex organizational processes, heavy reliance on assessment data to inform decisions, superb supervision and professional development skills.
  • Understanding and appreciation of Catholic, Jesuit mission and identity.
  • Experience with change management.
  • Advanced analytical, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills.
  • Ability to identify and analyze various issues and problems, making recommendations for policy changes and/or taking action to resolve.
  • Ability to define problems, collect data, establish facts and draw conclusions, and effectively present information to top management, public groups, and/or parents and families.
  • Competence in managing complex administrative processes effectively and efficiently.
  • Thorough understanding of local, state, and federal legislation and regulations, including FERPA, Title IX, Clery, and Americans with Disabilities Act.

Characteristics of the successful candidate as described by community stakeholders include the following:

  • Collaborative
  • Commitment to equity
  • Change management skills
  • A true advocate for DEI and social justice
  • Strong in data analysis and data-driven decision-making
  • Creative problem solver
  • Strong communication and listening skills
  • Calm in crisis management
  • Mission-driven
  • Strength in cross-cultural communication
  • Demonstrated engagement throughout campus
  • Compassionate leadership
  • Ability to multitask and be flexible and adaptable in a fast-paced work environment

History of the Position

The dean of students position was previously held by Donna Bess Myers, who has moved into the role of senior advisor for the division, overseeing staff onboarding and development, acting as a liaison for critical campus partners, and helping create a landing point for graduate students seeking services on campus. This position has been vacant since February 1, 2023. The position title was changed to emphasize the role and importance within the division.

Opportunities and Challenges of the Role

Trust and confidence of students. The AVP/DOS will be charged with relationship-building with SLU students. The AVP/DOS must promote a culture of accessibility, transparency, and accountability through policy, communication, and practice.

Demonstrated Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. The AVP/DOS ensures that protocols, services, and practices are culturally sensitive and actively anti-racist. This will require individuals with high emotional intelligence, cultural sensitivity training, and previous experience advancing DEI and social justice initiatives.

Crisis Management. The AVP/DOS will be the division’s crisis response leader. They should be nimble and able to pivot quickly to provide solutions for issues that arise. They will provide an assessment of current crisis practices and develop a thoughtful and holistic crisis response plan.

Creative Thought Leadership. The AVP/DOS will be courageous in advancing new ideas, thinking outside the box, and pushing the unit to address challenges with creativity, systems, and futuristic thinking.

Collaboration. The AVP/DOS will forge significant partnerships with the Student Affairs senior leadership team, division staff, and key campus stakeholders through collaborations, programs, programming initiatives, and student engagement.

Location. St. Louis will be desirable for candidates with its urban and suburban mix of affordable housing options, diverse population, and four-season weather. There are good opportunities for job relocation for candidates with partners and strong local school options for those candidates with school-aged children. St. Louis ranked in the top 75 of Best Places to Live in 2022-2023 by U.S. News & World Report.

Strategic Planning. The AVP/DOS will be able to assess current programs and build upon them with expanded collaborations, programs, and relationships. They are expected to assist in developing the strategic plan and direct initiatives to increase support for students’ academic and personal success.

Change Management. The AVP/DOS must demonstrate a leadership style that is credible and collegial while being highly effective. They will educate the campus community on current trends and issues with college students while introducing best practices to support SLU students.

Advocate. The AVP/DOS will be a champion and advocate for students while motivating faculty and staff to understand the purpose of that advocacy. They will promote policies and practices that uphold equality, service, and a sense of belonging among the student population.

Measures of Success

At an appropriate interval after joining Saint Louis University, the following will initially define success for the assistant vice president and dean of students:

  • The AVP/DOS is a visible and engaged leader throughout campus, building bridges between students and administrators.
  • The AVP/DOS is seen as an advocate for students and a champion for diversity, equality, inclusion, and anti-racist behavior.
  • The AVP/DOS has assessed the impact of programs and services within their areas of responsibility.
  • The AVP/DOS is an essential team member and collaborator with faculty, staff, and students working toward achieving departmental, divisional, and institutional goals.
  • The AVP/DOS has expanded the professional development and mentoring of staff within the department.
  • The AVP/DOS has analyzed, contributed to, and defined plans that are best practices for the division and the campus moving forward.
  • The AVP/DOS has contributed to policy evaluation, creation, and education for the campus community.

Institution & Location

Overview of the Dean of Students Office

Framed in the Ignatian hallmark of cura personalis, meaning care for the whole person, the Dean of Students Office team strives to assist students and their families in the successful navigation of the SLU experience. The office strongly encourages the promotion and development of a healthy mind, body, and spirit to help every student persist and succeed in their college career. Through individual support, the Dean of Students Office aims to ensure that students have the opportunity to grow as empowered global citizens who make contemplative and just choices that align with their passion and purpose.

“We are committed to SLU’s mission to pursue truth for the greater glory of God and for the service of humanity and we want to empower you to be an active partner in your educational journey.”

Dean of Students Office Staff

Student Development Overview

Saint Louis University’s Division of Student Development is driven by the mission to provide students with programs, services, and experiences that help them to develop as leaders.

Our goal is to help shape students into successful graduates who are holistically formed, critically reflective, and socially and personally responsible.

Divisional Statement on Diversity

In support of Saint Louis University’s Jesuit mission, the Division of Student Development is committed to maintaining an environment of mutual respect and dignity for people of all backgrounds and cultures. It is our mission to encourage and support a thriving and diverse community among our staff and students.

We honor the differences in our community, whether they be age, ability, race, religion, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, or socio-economic background, and prepare our students to thrive in a multicultural, diverse society. Our efforts are grounded in cultivating awareness, inclusion, and engagement through intentional experiences, events, and programs that demonstrate our commitment to excellence.

Student Development Leadership

Sarah K. Cunningham – Vice President of Student Development

Since February 15, 2021, Dr. Cunningham has served as SLU’s vice president of Student Development. Most recently, she served as the assistant vice provost for Student Life Strategy and Policy at Johns Hopkins University. In this role, she was responsible for managing and leading university-wide initiatives that support student success across the university, specifically student health and well-being, crisis response, and student retention.

Dr. Cunningham has contributed to the field of student affairs for almost 20 years. Before arriving at Johns Hopkins, she worked at the University of Chicago as the executive director for Student Leadership, Involvement, and Student Life centers and assistant dean of students at the university. Prior to Chicago, she also worked at the University of Florida, George Mason University, and Slippery Rock University.

Dr. Cunningham holds a Bachelor of Arts in combined social studies from Youngstown State University, a Master of Science in college student personnel services from Western Illinois University, and a Doctorate of Education in higher education and organizational change from Benedictine University. Her dissertation research looked at the lived experiences of student leaders at public universities who held a vote on their institution’s board of trustees. She enjoys college sporting events-Roll Bills, taking hikes with her rescue dog Bailey, traveling, and the theater.

Institutional Overview

Established in 1818, Saint Louis University (SLU) is one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious Catholic, Jesuit higher education institutions, with campuses in Saint Louis, Missouri, and Madrid, Spain. It is recognized for its world-class academics, life-changing research, compassionate health care, and a strong commitment to faith and service. SLU currently has an enrollment of over 12,000 students, nearly 8,000 of whom are undergraduates, and offers 86 undergraduate majors and 83 graduate disciplines in which to study. SLU prides itself on maintaining a welcoming environment for a diverse population of students of all faiths, ethnicities, genders, identities, and backgrounds, with approximately 3,500 students living on campus in one of seven residence halls and four apartment complexes. Recognized for its efforts to make a world-class education affordable and rated among the nation’s top research universities, SLU has 15 programs ranked in the top 50 in the nation by U.S. News and World Report.

Mission statement

About Saint Louis University

Strategic Plan


The Student Body

Total enrollment: 12,229

Undergraduate: 7,723

Graduate: 4,506

Retention rate: 91%


Diversity at Saint Louis University

The Division of Diversity and Innovative Community Engagement’s (DICE) mission is to establish a culture of inclusive excellence, equity, and human flourishing for all members of Saint Louis University and our connected communities through education, elimination, and transformation.

Institutional Leadership

Dr. Fred Pestello – President

Dr. Fred P. Pestello became the 33rd president of Saint Louis University in 2014. He is the first permanent lay president of Saint Louis University since its founding in 1818 and is proud to have spent nearly 40 years in Catholic higher education.

As president, Dr. Pestello oversees one of the nation’s leading Jesuit research universities with nearly 13,000 students, more than 5,000 employees, an annual operating budget of more than $1 billion, and an endowment of over $1.6 billion.

Dr. Pestello has galvanized the university community around a compelling vision: To be a global Jesuit university that is mission-focused, student- and patient-centered, and research-driven – one that is working with the people of St. Louis to reimagine, transform, and unify our city. In pursuit of this vision, SLU has created a comprehensive research strategy and areas of eminence, developed the first university-wide core curriculum, opened two new residence halls, and built a 90,000-square-foot Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering building. Dr. Pestello also strengthened a historic partnership between SLU and SSM Health, which led to the construction of the new $550 million SSM Health / Saint Louis University Hospital and outpatient care center in 2020, and the successful integration of the SLUCare medical practice with SSM Health to create the region’s leading integrated healthcare network in 2022.

In partnership with university and community leaders, Dr. Pestello has strengthened SLU’s longstanding commitment to the Jesuit mission, constructing a new Jesuit Center in the center of campus. He has also increased support for diversity and community engagement, in part through the development and consistent focus on the Clock Tower Accords established in 2014.

In the past four years, SLU has enrolled three of its largest first-year classes in history. Under Dr. Pestello’s leadership, the institution has continued to address one of the core barriers to accessing higher education – affordability. SLU is regularly ranked a Best Value by US News. In 2022, SLU awarded more than $445M in financial aid to students, an increase of $38M from the prior year.

Benefits Overview

Benefits Overview

Saint Louis University is committed to providing a comprehensive and competitive benefits package from a wide range of support services, programs, and resources.

Application & Nomination

Application and Nomination

Review of applications will begin immediately and continue until the position is filled. The anticipated start date for this position is June 1, 2023. To apply for this position please click on the Apply button, complete the brief application process, and upload your resume and position-specific cover letter. Nominations for this position and questions about the status of the search may be sent to Laura Puckett-Boler at Applicants needing reasonable accommodation to participate in the application process should contact Spelman Johnson at 413-529-2895 or email

 Missouri is a state that does not require public salary disclosure. For salary information, please get in touch with Laura Puckett-Boler. 

Visit the Saint Louis University website at

Saint Louis University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer. All qualified candidates will receive consideration for the position applied for without regard to race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, military/veteran status, or other non­-merit factors.                                                                                                                            We welcome and encourage applications from minorities, women, protected veterans, and individuals with disabilities (including disabled veterans).

A Community for and With Others. At SLU, we’re committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion as values rooted in Ignatian spirituality. Because of this commitment, our students aspire to build communities that are unburdened by discrimination and oppression while advancing the Ignatian concepts of educating the whole person.

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