Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students

Posted: December 16th, 2013

Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) invites inquiries, nominations, and applications for the position of Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students.


About the University

Pacific Lutheran University is situated on a 156-acre woodland campus located 40 miles south of Seattle adjacent to Tacoma, WA. PLU offers approximately 3500 students a unique blend of academically rigorous liberal arts and sciences and professional programs with a vibrant complement of co-curricular offerings.  The mission of the university is “to educate students for lives of thoughtful inquiry, service, leadership, and care – for other people, for their communities, and for the Earth.”  Many in the impressive student body can not only recite the mission but choose to live out its principles.

The University was founded in 1890 by Scandinavian immigrants.  Throughout its history, PLU has remained grounded in its strong Lutheran heritage and highly values its affiliation with the nationally-renowned higher education system of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) with colleges and universities dedicated to the freedom of inquiry and the development of the whole person. PLU is an inclusive, culturally-aware environment that values excellence, autonomy, and an atmosphere where all perspectives are expressed openly.

Pacific Lutheran University has set out three pathways to academic distinction: global education and service to the world, student-faculty research and creative projects and helping students discern meaning and purpose in their lives.  In 2006, PLU became the first university with students studying on all seven continents simultaneously.  Publicly recognized in 2009, PLU became the first university in the state of Washington and the first private university on the West Coast to receive the prestigious Senator Paul Simon Award for Campus Internationalization.  Today, two-thirds of the faculty has international expertise and experience. Nearly 50% of all students participate in at least one study-away experience while at PLU.

PLU is dedicated to developing ethical, educated leaders by challenging students to identify and ask questions of meaning and value in their own lives.  Students are asked to explore their passions and purpose in life, and to uphold the university’s commitment to academic excellence and academic freedom.  PLU fosters a global perspective, in and out of the classroom, emphasizing an understanding of the intercultural and intellectual richness of the world and students’ roles and responsibilities as global citizens.

search-12[1]PLU offers a full range of liberal arts academic programs anchored by the College of Arts & Sciences.  The university also provides students the opportunity for professional study in business, communication and arts, education, nursing, social work, and physical education.  Each of these programs maintains a strong liberal arts emphasis at its core and a complement of co-curricular educational opportunities, several of which have been honored by NASPA for excellence.  Master’s degrees are offered in business, education, marriage and family therapy, nursing, and creative writing.

In 2012 PLU elected Thomas W. Krise as its 13th President. He is leading the implementation of the PLU 2020 Strategic Plan which calls for innovation across the institution while honoring the strong values of the university. The pace of change is steady, thoughtful, and deliberate. A democratic faculty governance system at PLU ensures inclusive and collaborative decision-making. The collegial atmosphere between staff, faculty and students coupled with a beautiful campus setting and excellent benefits make PLU a great work environment.

About the Position

The Pacific Lutheran University Division of Student Life has a strong sense of its charge and aspirations.   It is the role of the Vice President of Student Life to support and advance the vision and mission of the division in concert with that of the university.

Student Life Vision Statement: As a Student Affairs division of the first rank, we are innovative professionals who engage students in effective programs and services that encourage lives of meaning and purpose which transform communities and the world.

Student Life Mission Statement: To engage and support all PLU students in a transformative educational experience.

The Vice President reports to the President of the university and is a member of the President’s Council, the senior leadership team for the university.  The Vice President provides support for the Board of Regents committee on Enrollment and Student Life.

The Vice President has direct responsibility for Residential Life and Housing, Campus Safety, Athletics, the Health Center/Counseling Center, Student Involvement and Leadership, and Career Connections.  Additional co-curricular educational programs and services directly related to student life include the Diversity Center, Disability Support Services, International Student Services, Student Employment, Student Rights and Responsibilities, New Student Orientation, student clubs/organizations, intramurals, parking, recreation facilities, veterans, commuters, and LuteFit (health and wellness).  The Vice President chairs the Student Life Council which is currently comprised of the directors of the student life departments as well as the director of the Diversity Center, a University Pastor, and the Senior Associate to the Vice President. The division nurtures close partnerships with many academic departments, the Provost and Campus Ministry.

The Vice President leads the division in its work with a largely active and committed student body. Student life professionals at PLU are educators engaging students and contributing to their success in a variety of formal and informal ways. Members of the division of Student Life serve as advisors for Associated Students of Pacific Lutheran University (ASPLU), the Residence Hall Association, Student Media, Student Athlete Advisory Council, Outdoor Recreation and a number of student clubs and organizations. Members of the division teach classes, supervise students in employment positions, and create an interactive, vibrant co-curriculum.

The Vice President, and the division of Student Life, participates in the University Emergency Management Plan for All Hazards, and takes the lead in caring for students while responding to individual and community crises. The Vice President works closely with university legal counsel on matters related to federal and state requirements and liability.

The Vice President takes the leading role in managing the resources of the division.  This includes an operating budget of more than eight million dollars and revenue generation primarily through residential housing and Athletics. The division has a staff of over 85 professionals, ten residence halls, nine recreational and athletic facilities, and departments located in six campus buildings.

The Vice President for Student Life is expected to take the leadership role in showing that the division exemplifies the following characteristics as detailed in the Student Life Strategic Plan:

  • A commitment to educating students in a collaborative co-curricular learning community that engages students through personal connections and nurtures them to develop their full potential.
  • A commitment to empowering students to take responsibility for their person and their life in such ways that resonate with their vocational aspirations and that contribute to the greater good of all beings and the physical environment, both locally and globally.
  • A commitment to the highest levels of integrity, professionalism, and stewardship of resources in our work including professionals, facilities, services, and programs.
  • A commitment to continual evaluation and improvement of our work through on-going assessment.


The successful candidate will demonstrate evidence of significant leadership in Student Life at a college/university through a minimum of seven years of increasing responsibility and experience at the level of director or above at a comparable university.  This person must have excellent vision for all areas of student development, co-curricular education and experience in administration of the varied responsibilities contained within a well-rounded portfolio of student life including budget management and legal issues.  The successful candidate will be experienced with and skilled in crisis management. Competence with the use of research, data, and assessment is important.  Superior written and verbal communication skills are essential.  The successful candidate will have the ability to motivate and develop staff, inspire trust, and instill confidence.  This person must be committed to an open and collegial leadership style.  The successful candidate will also be: a person who is pro-active in responding to student concerns; committed to diversity and a leader in word and action; an excellent supervisor; proficient in areas of staff performance appraisal and professional development; and an experienced effective educator who is familiar with and adept in applying best practices in the areas of student affairs programs and services.  A strong preference will be given to candidates who have earned a doctoral degree.

How to Apply

Interested individuals should send a letter describing their interest in and qualifications for the position and a current resume.  The packet should be sent electronically (Microsoft Word attachments preferred) to  The subject line in the email should be PLUVP.  Confidential inquiries will be received at 951.201.8800.

Documents that must be mailed should be sent to William Spelman Executive Search at 667 Midship Circle, Webster, NY 14580.  Confidentiality will be maintained, and no references will be contacted without prior knowledge or approval of the candidate. For full consideration, all materials must be submitted by February 14, 2014.  The process of reviewing applications will begin immediately and will continue until the position is filled.

The University is committed to diversity, endorses the goals of equal opportunity and affirmative action, and actively seeks applications from women and persons of color.