The Opportunity

The University of Pennsylvania, the largest private employer in Philadelphia, is a global leader in education, research, and innovation. This historic, Ivy League school consistently ranks among the top universities in the world. Penn has 12 highly-regarded schools that provide opportunities for undergraduate, graduate and continuing education, all influenced by Penn’s distinctive interdisciplinary approach to scholarship and learning. As an employer Penn has been ranked nationally on many occasions with the most recent award from Forbes who named Penn one of America’s Best Employers By State in 2021. Penn offers a unique working environment within the city of Philadelphia. The university is situated on a beautiful urban campus, with easy access to a range of educational, cultural, and recreational activities. With its historical significance and landmarks, lively cultural offerings, and wide variety of atmospheres, Philadelphia is the perfect place to call home for work and play.

The Position

Role of the Vice President of Public Safety for University of Pennsylvania

Reporting to the senior executive vice president, the vice president of public safety (VPPS) ensures an inclusive educational and working environment on campus, while also consistently building relationships and collaborating with students, faculty, and staff in support of a positive campus experience for all members of a diverse and learning-focused community. The VPPS provides comprehensive vision, strategic leadership, and effective management for the department of public safety which includes finance and administration, fire and emergency services, Penn police department, PennComm and emergency communications, security services, security technology, and special services. The VPPS implements current and emerging best-practices in the field of public safety; prioritizes prevention and community caretaking; utilizes procedural justice initiatives to ensure organizational impartiality, transparency, fairness, respect, and dignity; and serves as the university’s representative with external law enforcement agencies, neighborhood security associations, and other external entities on general public safety and emergency response issues. The VPPS manages a staff of 182, including 12 direct reports, and oversees an annual operating budget of $30.2 million.

The students, faculty, and staff at Penn are reflective of a diverse community representing a broad spectrum of identities and backgrounds. The VPPS must have a deep commitment and a proven record of success in promoting and implementing access, diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice initiatives, having effectively infused these values into the ethos of their previous institution or organization.

Opportunities and Challenges of the Role

The vice president must be an experienced leader capable of managing a complex and multifaceted division and equipped to contribute at both a strategic and tactical level to a vibrant, creative, and diverse university community.  The VPPS will bring a commitment to enhancing the quality of life for the Penn community through the delivery of a comprehensive and integrated safety and security program, in partnership with the university’s stakeholders.

The successful candidate must possess a broad and deep understanding of best practices with regard to community caretaking strategies, higher education culture, modern safety and security techniques and technology, and staff development. They must possess a broad and deep understanding of national best practices with regard to the administration of public safety operations, community engagement, emergency management, modern technology, and organizational and staff development in a private, urban university environment. The VPPS must be capable of managing complex situations and staffing, wholeheartedly and demonstrably committed to diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice at the highest levels, possessing a deep understanding of current issues around the national conversation on police violence and reform, and be equipped to contribute at both a strategic and operational level at a vibrant research institution.

It will be essential for the VPPS to commit to a comprehensive culture of collaboration and partnering, as well as clear and transparent communication within the division and across the campus community. Penn is committed to building strong, healthy, and mutually supportive relationships as a foundation of the campus culture, and strong collaboration is an absolute necessity in all endeavors to ensure success. The division of public safety touches a vast number of entities, including students, faculty, administration, departments, neighborhood organizations, and community members on and around the campus, so it will be crucial that the new vice president quickly reach out across each of these areas to consistently build solid and mutually beneficial relationships that foster ongoing positive interactions. These connections are absolutely essential in order to assess the evolving needs of constituents, provide exceptional programs and services for the campus community, and ensure that the division is known for its customer- and student-centered approach at all times.

In addition to the minimum academic and experiential requirements indicated in the position announcement, the following were identified as priorities, opportunities, and challenges that will face the new vice president of public safety at Penn:

  • The vice president will need to be very visible and, in essence, serve as the “face” of public safety at Penn. It will be a prime objective of the new VPPS to prioritize getting out of the office and be “seen” on campus and in the local community, attending student events, collaborating across academic and student life, and spending time with stakeholders in an effort to educate them on the benefits and services offered by the division. The VPPS must possess excellent communication skills and be able to articulate the position in innovative ways such that the “story” of the Penn division of public safety is shared across the university and the local community.
  • Diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism are foundational parts of the Penn value system, and the new vice president should be a proactive leader in supporting, understanding, embracing, and nurturing these concepts in all aspects of the position.
  • The VPPS must bring a high level of cultural sophistication and have the ability to “communicate globally and act locally.” There are a significant number of underrepresented populations within the Penn community, and division of public safety needs to be a model for maintaining a strong sense of social justice and an unbiased, supportive environment at all times. Students come to Penn from around the world and may bring an apprehensiveness toward law enforcement. The AVP and the entire division of public safety (DPS) must be prepared to proactively address these issues and build the trust and confidence of all stakeholders. The vice president must possess the ability to actively listen and engage the diverse members of the Penn community, and be transparent and collaborative in their solutions in order to effectively build relationships based on mutual understanding and create an innovative 21st century approach to safety and security.
  • The division of public safety works closely with federal, state, county, and local law enforcement agencies in the university’s host communities, and adjacent neighborhoods, so the successful candidate should be prepared to continue to foster strong collaborative relationships and good mutual aid understandings with these partners. An important community partner for DPS is the Philadelphia Police Department so the VPPS should also put emphasis on further developing and maintaining this relationship at all times. Issues of crime and violence within the city inevitably impact the campus community.
  • DPS staff serve as critical ambassadors for the university. They are often the first, and sometimes only, point of contact for neighbors, families, campus visitors, and others members of the local community. Penn views its neighbors as partners in the academic enterprise and places significant value on treating all neighbors with dignity and respect.
  • Penn Medicine with five Philadelphia based sites, including two hospitals in West Philadelphia, adds a unique complexity to the role of VPPS which includes an interface with the hospital security teams, an understanding of the neighborhoods in which they are located, and the challenges of the hospital environment in providing a safe environment for staff, patients and visitors.

Measures of Success

At an appropriate interval after joining Penn, the items listed below will initially define success for the new vice president.

  • the VPPS will have maintained a proactive, highly visible, well-respected, and established leadership presence on campus and this leadership presence will have been credible, collegial, collaborative, and positively received;
  • strong relationships, partnerships, and trust will have been established across a wide array of campus and external stakeholders;
  • diversity, equity, and inclusion are foundational concepts throughout the division, in hiring and other internal practices, as well as outreach to the Penn campus, to ensure that underrepresented communities present at Penn feel valued, heard, and supported;
  • the VPPS will have analyzed, contributed to, and defined plans and goals that are best practices for the department and campus moving forward;
  • the staff reporting to the VPPS will feel supported and valued, and be defined as a strong, highly functioning, well-regarded, and resilient team that works with synergy and shared provision of service;
  • the VPPS will have assessed the impact of programs and services and utilized data-driven decisions for improvements in processes and operations;
  • strong collaborative relationships have been established between the division and the community, especially with the academic and administrative departments, faculty, students, the senior administration, local partners in the community, and the Philadelphia police department.


Qualifications and Characteristics

A bachelor’s degree and at least ten years of progressive experience in a related field are required. A master’s degree and experience in the field of public safety, law enforcement, or community engagement in a higher education setting; and at least five years of senior management experience are preferred. The successful candidate will possess significant knowledge of higher education public safety and emergency response practices, excellent strategic and operational abilities, outstanding communication and interpersonal skills, and a clear and demonstrated commitment to community caretaking as a core professional value. The ideal candidate will possess an appreciation for the complexity of public safety in the context of a residential and dynamic university campus with a significant international population, as well as an unwavering commitment to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in every facet of the department’s activities. Key expectations for the successful candidate include skill in conflict resolution and creative problem solving; training and proficiency in the use trauma-informed care to support individuals and communities; experience working with a unionized work force and a record of success establishing and maintaining positive labor/management relations; a proven ability to motivate a diverse workforce to succeed as a high-functioning team; and the capacity to inspire trust and confidence among staff.


The following are additional desired characteristics, skill and abilities for the next vice president of public safety:

  • strong leadership and organizational development abilities that recruit, retain, and develop a diverse, cohesive, and inspired staff, while providing professional and personal development opportunities and promoting unity, teamwork, accountability, and retention throughout the organization;
  • demonstrated skills as an advocate and champion for diversity, equity, inclusivity, accessibility, and social and restorative justice, as well as a particular understanding of issues;
  • an excellent and transparent global communicator who possesses comprehensive interpersonal skills, and the ability to effectively interact all levels of the university, including students, faculty, and senior leaders;
  • collaboration and relationship-building skills with internal and external stakeholders, and the ability to understand the importance of interconnectedness, empathy, and partnerships;
  • the ability to listen carefully, ask knowledgeable questions, learn the culture of the university and the department, accept input from others, respect differing opinions, and then make well-informed and sometimes difficult decisions that are best for the division and the Penn community;
  • an understanding of current trends affecting students and the student experience, including, but not limited to, trauma-informed care, mental health concerns, gender identity, suicide ideation, intervention, and sexual assault;
  • the ability to multitask with multiple stakeholders who have diverse needs, adapt rapidly to changing situations, and be solutions-oriented with a “can do” attitude at all times;
  • a strategic thinker who can develop both short- and long-term plans around the needs of the division, formulate strategic, assessment, and operational plans, and then effectively implement those plans in tandem with the senior executive vice president, vice provost for university life, the provost, academic and administrative departments, and other campus partners;
  • strong managerial and organizational skills in a law enforcement environment at a high level, with the unique ability to promote, develop, and maintain elevated levels of trust in the Penn division of public safety;
  • an innovator with a futuristic orientation possessing technological and social media savvy, problem-solving skills, and a willingness to try new opportunities, to remain informed on new trends and best practices, to look beyond the status quo, and to lead significant change processes;
  • politically savvy, with the ability to effectively work within a complex university environment;
  • emotional intelligence, relatability, transparency, and responsiveness;
  • energy and enthusiasm for the role and the university, passion for the work, a positive attitude, a personable and approachable demeanor, charisma, and the ability to have fun on the job, even in the face of adversity;
  • character, integrity, ethics, empathy, humility, and a consistent intent to “do the right thing” at all times;
  • operational knowledge of Clery, Title IX, VAWA, and other federal guidelines and regulatory requirements/expectations;
  • experience with and an understanding of student activism, as well as how to engage with student demonstrations in a positive way;
  • demonstrated skills in de-escalation, non-lethal weapons, and mediation techniques.

Institution & Location

Overview of the Division of public safety

The division of public safety is committed to sharing information about our department in order to create a more transparent, welcoming and safe community for all.

The mission of the University of Pennsylvania’s division of public safety is to enhance the quality of life, safety, and security of our community. The division accomplishes its mission through the delivery of a comprehensive and integrated safety and security program, in partnership with the community that we serve.

The members of the division of public safety reflect the diversity of our community. We pledge to deliver professional safety and security services that value and respect the rights and differences of all members of the division, as well as those of the University of Pennsylvania and the University City communities that we all proudly serve.

We are committed to the professional and personal development of all members of the division of public safety, and in turn we expect all of our employees to be models of excellence. Ultimately, we strive each and every day to earn the trust, confidence, and respect of our community.

Departments under the office of the vice president:

  • Finance & Administration
  • Fire & Emergency Services
  • Penn Police Department
  • PennComm & Emergency Communications
  • Security Services
  • Security Technology
  • Special Services

Employment Requirement

COVID-19 vaccination is a requirement for all positions at the University of Pennsylvania. New hires are expected to be fully vaccinated before beginning work at the university. For more information about Penn’s vaccine requirements and the use of Penn Open Pass, visit the Penn COVID-19 Response website for the latest information.

Benefits Overview

Benefits Overview

The university offers a competitive benefits package that includes excellent healthcare and tuition benefits for employees and their families, generous retirement benefits, a wide variety of professional development opportunities, supportive work and family benefits, a wealth of health and wellness programs and resources, and much more.

  • Medical Insurance
  • Prescription Plan
  • Behavioral Health Insurance
  • Dental Insurance
  • Vision Insurance
  • Life Insurance
  • Flexible Spending Accounts
  • Tuition Benefits
  • Retirement Plans

For more information:

Application & Nomination

Application and 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 Mark Hall at Applicants needing reasonable accommodation to participate in the application process should contact Spelman Johnson at 413-529-2895 or email

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Penn adheres to a policy that prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, creed, national or ethnic origin, citizenship status, age, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected class.