The University of Louisville (UofL), an urban, state-supported, public, Research 1 doctoral university located in Kentucky’s largest metropolitan area, is known for its academic excellence, transformational research, service to the community, and advancement of educational opportunity. Founded in 1798, the university has three campuses—the Belknap Campus, housing seven of the university’s 12 colleges and schools, the Health Sciences Center, and the Shelby Campus, located in eastern Jefferson County. UofL serves over 22,600 students enrolled in 88 undergraduate degree programs, 138 graduate degree programs, and 35 certificate and non-degree programs. In fall of 2019, there were over 6,500 students living on-campus, including 18 living-learning/themed communities; 13 percent of the UofL student body were members of 33 national Greek-letter fraternities and sororities; and there were 465 recognized student organizations and 23 sports clubs. With an aspiration of becoming the nation’s premier anti-racist metropolitan research university, the University of Louisville prides itself on celebrating diversity, fostering equity and inclusion, and ensuring a community of care through thought and action. Louisville is a progressive community of nearly one million people with a robust economy, a vibrant arts scene, a nationally ranked public school system, and a rich history infused with Southern hospitality.

The Position

Reporting to the assistant provost for student affairs and assistant dean of students, the director of student involvement is a student-centered educator who manages and provides strategic vision for a comprehensive student involvement program that effectively enhances the quality of student life at the university. The director supports the co-curricular experience, leadership development, and personal development of all students, and is responsible for the functional areas of the department: student organizations, fraternity and sorority life, student leadership, the Engage Lead Serve Board and community service programs, the International Service Learning Program, and the Student Activities Board. This collaborative administrator develops and maintains strong partnerships across campus and supports student success and retention through sustained and relevant engagement, synergistically connecting academic and non-academic life. The director diligently builds these bridges and works to create a sense of community on campus, collaboratively managing campus-wide, student-related educational programming. The director of student involvement is responsible for a staff of 13, including five direct reports, three additional professional staff, and five graduate students, and oversees multiple budgets totaling approximately $1.5 million.

Additionally, the director serves as a member of the Division of Student Affairs Leadership Team; works closely with other Student Affairs departments, student services, and academic departments to develop campus-wide policies, procedures, and protocols that promote student engagement; and remains current on legal issues, programming trends, and best practices that impact student involvement. The director will possess the ability to create positive, transparent, and open relationships with staff, students, and faculty; a positive mindset with a focus on integrity; a direct and comprehensive focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout the university environment; the ability to multitask; an openness to the ideas and opinions of others in the decision-making process; the ability to build, empower, and hold student teams accountable; a strong proficiency in collaboration and working positively with others; a focused commitment to customer service; and excellent training, speaking, presentation, and facilitation skills.

Qualifications

The successful candidate will possess a master’s degree in college student personnel, higher education administration, or a related field (terminal degree is preferred) with progressive administrative experience in university student activities, engagement, and involvement. The successful candidate will have experience leading and/or supervising the work of others, as well as excellent leadership, organizational, interpersonal, and management skills. Other preferred qualifications include experience advising student groups and working with campus events; developing and implementing student leadership programs; shaping and implementing university policy; managing budgets; designing and implementing programmatic priorities; and overseeing assessment and evaluation of programs, operations, and services. Demonstrated experience in risk management, particularly related to student organization administration, is also preferred. The director will be expected to provide clear direction, communicate effectively and with purpose, and work with a spirit of collaboration, inclusion, respect, and collegiality.

In addition to the minimum academic and experiential requirements and preferences indicated above, other desired characteristics, skills, actions, and/or abilities noted from discussions with campus stakeholders include the following:

  • a progressive background in higher education or student affairs, with demonstrated experience integrating student development principles within a student engagement environment;
  • specific knowledge and experience in one or more of the areas within the portfolio of Student Involvement is highly preferred;
  • strong leadership, managerial, administrative, and organizational development abilities that inspire, develop, and unite staff, providing professional and personal development opportunities and promoting teamwork throughout the Student Involvement department;
  • high emotional intelligence, with a great capacity for empathy;
  • a student-centered philosophy that pervades all aspects of the responsibilities of the position;
  • energy and enthusiasm for the role, passion for the work, a positive attitude, even in the face of adversity, a personable and approachable demeanor, charisma, and the ability to have fun on the job;
  • demonstrated collaboration skills with internal departments and external colleagues, with the ability to understand the importance of interconnectedness and partnerships;
  • a strong international outlook and experience working with international students is highly desirable;
  • a lifelong learner who is willing to continue their education while on the job and in a rapidly changing environment (UofL’s graduate program offers excellent opportunities to continue one’s education if desired);
  • demonstrated ability to delegate effectively and empower staff to conduct their daily responsibilities;
  • a strategic thinker who can develop both short- and long-term plans around the needs of student engagement, formulate strategic assessment and operational plans, and then effectively implement those plans in a shared vision with the departmental staff and other campus partners;
  • demonstrated ability to grow and develop graduate students;
  • knowledge of risk management in all facets of student involvement;
  • a highly visible individual who is willing to be present throughout the campus, attending events, supporting staff initiatives, and serving as a positive “face” for Student Involvement;
  • a creative innovator with a futuristic orientation and a willingness to try new opportunities, remain informed on new trends and best practices, and lead significant change processes;
  • relatable, approachable, and connected to the students, with the ability to obtain buy in from the student governing bodies on priorities and needs related to student engagement;
  • experience in diplomacy, political savvy, and the ability to develop consensus;
  • the ability to listen carefully, ask knowledgeable questions, learn the culture of the University and the department, accept input from staff, and then make well-informed decisions that are best for the UofL community;
  • problem solving skills, with the ability to determine needs, address issues, and manage change effectively;
  • previous experience and involvement with a professional higher education association related to student involvement, such as NACA, ACUI, AFA, or others;
  • solid budget and finance skills, innovation in discovering new revenue sources, and the ability to effectively advocate for limited resources;
  • the ability to make difficult decisions when necessary, to conduct difficult conversations when pertinent, to listen to all sides of an issue, and to balance the needs of the people with the needs of the organization.

History of the Position

In the fall of 2007, the vice president for student affairs created the position of director of student activities and student activities center. This was the result of a reorganization bringing several areas together under one department (student organizations, fraternity and sorority life, programming, and the student center). Prior to this reorganization, the Student Activities department was primarily focused only on programming and events.

In 2015, Civic Engagement and Leadership merged with Student Activities and Student Activities Center, due in part to the evolution of the Engage Lead Serve Board (ELSB) that received significant funding from the Student Government Association (SGA) and the department became Student Involvement and Student Activities Center.

In January 2018, when the Student Activities Center was nearing completion on an addition and renovation, and with the retirement of the chief of staff in the vice provost’s office, the division implemented another reorganization. The director of student involvement and student activities center, Tim Moore, became chief of staff, and Student Involvement and the Student Activities Center were split into their own departments. Glenn Gittings became director of the student activities center, and Pam Curtis was selected as the director of student involvement. Student Involvement is currently comprised of student organizations, student leadership, fraternity and sorority life, student programming and community services, including the International Service Learning Program.  Now, after 34 years at the University of Louisville, Pam has decided to retire, effective September 30, 2020, and the current search is being implemented to select her replacement.

Likely Opportunities, Priorities, and Challenges of the Position

The next director of student involvement at the University of Louisville must possess a broad and deep understanding of national best practices with regard to programming and engagement trends in student activities, student organizations, fraternity and sorority life, student leadership development, and international service learning that foster student success. The director should be an experienced leader capable of managing complex situations and staffing, unwaveringly student-centered, possessing a deep understanding of today’s students and their developmental needs, and equipped to contribute at both a strategic and operational level at a large and growing urban research institution.

It is crucial to identify a competent, energetic, innovative, and visionary individual who can promote and develop the staff/team, set departmental priorities, and work in tandem with the Student Involvement staff to progressively, expeditiously, and comprehensively move the program forward. The following were identified as possible opportunities, priorities, and challenges that will face the new director of student involvement at the University of Louisville.

  • The best and quickest pathway to success at the University of Louisville is through fostering and promoting relationships at all times. Success at UofL is solidly built on relationships between students, faculty, staff, and administration, and there is an extremely collegial environment across the institution. Once on campus, the director, in partnership with the assistant provost for student affairs and assistant dean of students, should identify various stakeholders and constituencies with whom to begin meeting, conversing, partnering, and communicating in an effort to begin building those relationships through which new engagement opportunities can be established and new programmatic endeavors can be initiated. It will be essential that the new director of student involvement commit to a comprehensive culture of collaboration and partnering within the department, Student Affairs, and across campus to ensure maximum positive impact.
  • This is an exciting opportunity for a dynamic professional to build a fresh and robust campus activities and student engagement program. COVID-19 has impacted higher education in countless ways, with the Student Invovlement area feeling a great brunt of its impact. Most traditional student activities and other student engagement programs have been pushed online or cancelled altogether. The new director will need to spend time at the beginning of their tenure assessing the current programmatic model and its delivery systems, determine the programs that are working and those that are in need of attention, establish new and innovative program models, and plan for strategic growth and development for the post-pandemic future. This is a great opportunity to conduct a “listening tour,” through which the director can discover a real snapshot of the state of the department and the current campus culture. There is great support from the administration for taking a fresh look at established programs, as well as developing new and creative ideas, based on current research and cutting-edge technology, to enhance and improve the student experience across the board.
  • The University of Louisville has made a commitment to become the nation’s premier anti-racist metropolitan research university, and is committed to a culture that celebrates and fosters diversity, equity, and inclusion. With the national conversation around racial inequality, police brutality, and social justice, UofL has made a bold and public commitment to move past the current climate and ensure that the University takes the lead on being anti-racist at its very core. The new director will need to embrace, promote, and celebrate a culture of inclusivity at all times, and work alongside students, faculty, and staff alike to ensure these principles are at the forefront of UofL’s anti-racist philosophy. The successful candidate will exhibit demonstrated skills as an advocate and champion for diversity, equity, inclusivity, accessibility, accountability, and social justice, with a willingness to stand up for these values, and an understanding of the intersectionality of a diverse student population.

Other aspects of the position and the institution, based on stakeholder conversations, of which potential candidates should consider:

  • clear, frequent, and transparent communication is essential for success, and the director should be well-versed at interacting with multiple levels of the institution, from students to colleagues to senior administrators;
  • the director should strive to be visible and “present” around campus, especially at programs and events sponsored by the areas in the department and campus student organizations, but also in support of collaborative partner programs and University-wide events;
  • a successful candidate will put the best interests of the students at the center of the decision-making process at all times;
  • with a campus population of over 22,600 students, there are currently 13 staff members in Student Involvement, including five graduate students, so the new director should be prepared to operate as both a strategic planner and a “hands-on” practitioner;
  • the staff of Student Involvement are a great mix of more seasoned professionals and those who have been in the field for a shorter amount of time, so the new director should understand the inherent needs that accompany managing staff at different points in their career, including graduate students, and provide the professional development and growth opportunities that each requires;
  • a successful candidate will have an appreciation for the academic mission of the University and how the academics and the co/extracurricular work synergistically to provide the best environment for students, as well as a deep understanding of the connection between student involvement and student retention, with the ability to devise engagement strategies aimed at bolstering retention across the board;
  • a renewed focus has been placed on commuter and transfer students at UofL, with the opportunity to potentially expand staff in that area, so the new director should be prepared to place emphasis on programs and services aimed at these student populations;
  • there will be great support for “outside-the-box thinking,” with opportunities for professional development, so this person should use the relationships mentioned above to quickly learn the campus culture, familiarize themselves with the strategic plan, and begin to enact their new vision over time (while still honoring the long-standing traditions of UofL and the hard work that is currently under way);
  • international service learning is significant in the current climate, given the travel restrictions that are now in place. With normally up to ten trips per year on the schedule, the program is strong, but the director may need to work with the International Service Learning Program (ISLP) director to reimagine the scope and operation of this program in a way that students can still participate at a high level;
  • Louisville, Kentucky, is centrally located within the United States—within a few hours of Chicago, Indianapolis, Nashville, and other metropolitan cities—and there are also great opportunities nearby for outdoor, sporting, and nature-related activities. With the internationally renowned Kentucky Derby run each year at Churchill Downs, and a burgeoning arts, food, and cultural scene, Louisville has something for everyone. Stakeholders noted that the University is large, but it never feels large, so opportunities for collaboration and networking abound.

Institution & Location

Institutional Background

The University of Louisville (UofL), an urban, state-supported, public, Research 1 doctoral university located in Kentucky’s largest metropolitan area, is known for its academic excellence, transformational research, service to the community, and advancement of educational opportunity. Founded in 1798, the university has three campuses—the Belknap Campus, housing seven of the university’s 12 colleges and schools, the Health Sciences Center, and the Shelby Campus, located in eastern Jefferson County. UofL serves over 22,600 students enrolled in 88 undergraduate degree programs, 138 graduate degree programs, and 35 certificate and non-degree programs. In fall of 2019, there were over 6,500 students living on-campus, including 18 living-learning/themed communities; 13 percent of the UofL student body were members of 33 national Greek-letter fraternities and sororities; and there were 465 recognized student organizations and 23 sports clubs. With an aspiration of becoming the nation’s premier anti-racist metropolitan research university, the University of Louisville prides itself on celebrating diversity, fostering equity and inclusion, and ensuring a community of care through thought and action. Louisville is a progressive community of nearly one million people with a robust economy, a vibrant arts scene, a nationally ranked public school system, and a rich history infused with Southern hospitality.

Mission Statement

The University of Louisville pursues excellence and inclusiveness in its work to educate and serve its community through the following:

  1. teaching diverse undergraduate, graduate, and professional students in order to develop engaged citizens, leaders, and scholars;
  2. practicing and applying research, scholarship and creative activity; and
  3. providing engaged service and outreach that improve the quality of life for local and global communities.

The University is committed to achieving preeminence as a nationally recognized metropolitan research university.

Vision Statement

“The University of Louisville will be recognized as a great place to learn, a great place to work and a great place in which to invest because we celebrate diversity, foster equity, and strive for inclusion.”

Institutional Leadership

Dr. Neeli Bendapudi, President

Neeli Bendapudi is the 18th President of the University of Louisville. The university’s Board of Trustees selected her in April, 2018, after a nationwide search.

Prior to her move to Louisville, Bendapudi was provost and executive vice chancellor at the University of Kansas (KU). At KU she was lauded as a skilled collaborator, fundraiser, and faculty advocate. She was also known for her affable personality—telling people to “just call me Neeli.”

Bendapudi has a Ph.D. in marketing from the University of Kansas and teaching experience at The Ohio State University and Texas A&M University. In 2011, she returned to KU to become the School of Business dean and H.D. Price Professor of Business. In 2016, she was promoted to provost and executive vice chancellor.

An expert in the study of consumer behavior in service contexts, Bendapudi’s research deals with a customers’ willingness and ability to maintain long-term relationships with firms and with the brands and employees that represent them. Her work has been widely published and featured in popular media outlets.

Previously, she served as chief customer officer of the Huntington National Bank. She sits on the Board of Directors of the publicly held Lancaster Colony Corporation and has served on various private, public, and non-for-profit company boards including Fred’s, Sheetz, Freightquote, and MRIGlobal, an independent research institute.

Bendapudi and her husband, Venkat, were born and raised in India, in the city of Vizag, state of Andhra Pradesh. She earned her undergraduate and master’s degrees there before coming to the U.S. to complete her doctorate.

Dr. Michael Mardis, Vice Provost for Student Affairs, Chief Student Affairs Officer, and Dean of Students

As the Dean of Students and Chief Student Affairs Officer for the University of Louisville, Dr. Mardis oversees the following units: Housing; Counseling Center; Intramural and Recreational Sports; Student Recreation Center; Career Development Center; Student Government Association; International Service Learning Program; Dean of Students Office; Student Involvement, Student Activities Center; fraternities & sororities; clubs & organizations; Student Activities Board; Student Conduct; Civic Engagement and Leadership; Disability Resource Center; Student Grievance Officer; Student Advocate; Parent Programs; Student Affairs Assessment; Title IX and ADA Compliance; Student Affairs Development; Study Abroad; TRIO Student Support Services, and International Center.

Dr. Mardis is a three-time graduate of the University of Louisville, having earned his Bachelor of Science, Master of Education, and PhD in Educational Leadership & Organizational Development from the University. With 24 years of professional experience working in Student Affairs and Higher Education, Dean Mardis has served on the UofL staff and as a member of the staff senate, as well as serving as an adjunct instructor for graduate programs at Radford University and the University of Louisville. He is currently an affiliated faculty member of the university’s Department of Education Leadership, Evaluation, and Organizational Development.

An active presenter at national conferences, webinars, and regional conferences, Dr. Mardis speaks on a wide range of topics, including behavioral intervention teams, emergency response, victim advocacy, student conduct, student engagement, campus safety, pandemic preparation, new professionals, professional balance, student organizations, the power of partnerships, leadership, and international service learning. His colleagues throughout Kentucky recognized him for his leadership with the 2018 College Personnel Association of Kentucky Outstanding Service Award. For his dedicated service to students, the SGA recognized Dr. Mardis with an award named in his honor in 2012, the “Michael Mardis Award for Excellence”.

Having served as the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) Kentucky Director for three years, Dr. Mardis was also the NASPA Excellence Award Chair for Violence Education and Prevention, Crisis Management, and Campus Security. Additionally, he served his fellow Student Affairs’ colleagues as the Association for Student Conduct Administration (ASCA) National Coordinator for Communities of Practice on Threat Assessment and Behavioral Intervention Teams for three years.

Dean Mardis is passionate about creating a vibrant campus life and improving student success. Under his leadership, the University of Louisville campus has experienced record levels of student involvement with over 450 registered student organizations, while student retention rates have improved and graduation rates have risen by 28 percent.

Benefits Overview

  • Medical
  • Prescription Drugs
  • Dental
  • Vision
  • Life Insurance
  • Flexible Spending Accounts
  • Short-term Disability
  • Long-term Disability
  • Retiree Health Benefits
  • Education Benefits including Tuition Remission
  • Life Events
  • Retirement Plans
  • Wellness

Application & Nomination

Review of applications will begin immediately, and continue until the position is filled. 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 may be emailed to J. Scott Derrick at jsd@spelmanjohnson.com. Applicants needing reasonable accommodation to participate in the application process should contact Spelman Johnson at 413-529-2895.

Visit the University of Louisville website at http://louisville.edu/.

The University of Louisville is an equal opportunity, affirmative action employer, and is committed to providing employment opportunities to all qualified applicants without regard to race, sex, age, color, national origin, ethnicity, creed, religion, disability, genetic information, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and expression, marital status, pregnancy, or veteran status.