Changing of the guard: Admin restructures over summer break



The Augustana administration made several changes to its staff over the summer and just in time for the final year of the university’s Horizons 2019 Campaign.

The university appointed an acting dean and a vice president for communications and marketing, created a new associate vice president position and hired a director of Campus Safety and director of international programs,  adjustments that Herseth Sandlin says she expected and welcomes.

“I anticipated there would be retirements based on what I was told during the presidential search process,” Herseth Sandlin said. “Any new president is looking to develop a team so you are surrounded by a group of people who can help you develop and execute the next strategic plan.”

Herseth Sandlin said the university will not reach all the goals of the Horizons 2019 campaign, especially the enrollment goals.

The university planned on expanding enrollment to 2,500 students and increasing its diverse student population to 20 percent of the student body. Herseth Sandlin said the enrollment stands at 2,200, with minority students comprising 16 to 17 percent of the student body.

“I think that is terrific, but I’ve also challenged that the way to finish this strong is to continue to find ways to communicate and find ways to attract students of diverse backgrounds where we have been historically underrepresented,” Herseth Sandlin said.

However, she plans to come as close to the goals as possible and that the administrative changes will help with that plan.

In early August, the university announced that Mark Blackburn will serve as acting dean of students while maintaining his position as director of diversity and inclusion until another director is hired in November, Blackburn said. While he is enthusiastic, Blackburn said he is unsure how long he will remain in the position.

“Time will tell, but I’m looking forward to the challenges and cultivating relationships across the board—faculty, staff and students,” Blackburn said.

Blackburn said he will prioritize diversity by endorsing initiatives dedicated to supporting traditionally underrepresented students on campus.

Former Dean of Students Jim Bies retired from the position on July 31. He was Augustana’s student dean for 34 years. He now is a part-time advisor for the university.

Also in August, former director of Campus Safety Rick Tupper assumed the new associate vice president for university services position. He said the new post is his first outside of law enforcement and public safety.

Tupper became a military police officer at age 17 and joined public law enforcement at 21. He later graduated from the FBI National Academy and then assumed the director of campus safety position at Augustana, Tupper said.

In his new position, Tupper will oversee Augustana’s food contract with Sodexo food services, its contract with Barnes & Noble and campus housekeeping, ground services and maintenance, responsibilities previously held by the dean of students.

He said he hopes students approach him with their wants and concerns.

“I want to know, I want to hear from them, what they need, what they want and what they see is not working right,” Tupper said. “We are a service.”

Galen Smidt, former assistant chief of the Sioux Falls Police Department, retired from the police department on Aug. 28 and accepted Tupper’s former role as director of Campus Safety on Sept. 4.

Smidt joined the Sioux Falls Police Department 26 years ago as an officer and worked up to managing 363 police officers and civil staff members and a multi-million dollar budget, Tupper said.

“He brings a great executive leadership role for us in the public safety realm, so he is a great fit for us,” Tupper said.

Tupper said the university is still searching for a vice president for finance and administration. The administration has a number of candidates selected through the search firm Witt/Kieffer Inc., and the campus should expect the administration to announce a candidate sometime in October, Tupper said.

“The [vice president for finance and administration] is a very important position,” Tupper said. “It is the person with the pursestrings, so we want to make sure that our budgets are going smoothly and things are going well. And you can’t do that without money.”

Tom Meyer, former vice president for finance and administration, retired from the position in May.

The administration appointed Nikki Troxclair as the vice president for marketing and communications in late August.

Troxclair has worked in higher education administrations since graduating from University of Minnesota Twin Cities. She has worked in communications at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Georgia Tech, University of Minnesota Twin Cities and The University of South Carolina–Beaufort.

She said she wants to tell students’ stories and share “those stories locally, regionally and nationally so that we can create more awareness and reputation and elevate the university and the degrees [students] are earning.”

The university hired Ben Iverson as the director of international programs. The previous director, Donn Grinager, left during the summer.


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