Senior Vice President for Student Engagement

Opportunity and Summary of Position

Simmons University seeks a visionary, collaborative, and student-centered leader with a demonstrated commitment to diversity and inclusion, to serve as the inaugural Senior Vice President for Student Engagement.

Reporting to President Helen Drinan and leading a newly unified division, the Senior Vice President for Student Engagement will assume an important and highly influential position at Simmons with an opportunity to contribute significantly to the future of a dynamic University. The Senior Vice President for Student Engagement will lead all enrollment and student life activities of the University, furthering the University’s ability to recruit, select, enroll, support, retain, and launch a highly qualified and diverse student population. While tending to the needs of all students -- undergraduate, graduate, and online -- the Senior Vice President for Student Engagement will be empowered to stretch the University to imagine, design, and implement a seamless, positive, and best-in-class student experience.

The successful candidate will enhance the systems and structures to aid in enrollment planning and decision making at all levels and will lead an ongoing institution-wide conversation about the design of a preeminent student development program. The new Senior Vice President for Student Engagement will possess a demonstrated commitment to diversity in all its forms and will advance the University’s diversity and inclusion agenda through successful student enrollment, retention, engagement, and support strategies. Leadership, communication, and inclusiveness skills are essential, as is the ability to build bridges and work in partnership with a wide variety of people and offices. The Senior Vice President will also possess analytic and technology depth; a proven capacity for embedding enrollment and student life priorities within institutional values and aspirations; and the ability to keep student welfare always at the forefront by anticipating and responding to matters that influence retention and the student experience.

The Senior Vice President for Student Engagement will join Simmons during a significant period of transformation and progress. Located in Boston, one of America’s most dynamic cities, Simmons draws on many of the region’s cultural, historical, economic, scientific, and educational resources to offer an unparalleled student experience. Simmons has a cherished history of visionary thinking and social responsibility, and a strong mission that has remained constant for over a century: to provide transformative learning that links passion with lifelong purpose. Simmons offers undergraduate programs for women in education in the arts, sciences, and several professional fields; and graduate programs online and on the ground open to all at the master’s and doctoral levels. Given the richness and complexity of its offerings, Simmons obtained university designation and officially became Simmons University effective September 1, 2018.

Additional information about Simmons University is available at The national executive search firm Witt/Kieffer has been retained to assist Simmons University with this recruitment. All inquiries, nominations, and applications should be directed to the search firm as indicated at the end of this document.

Download the Senior Vice President for Student Engagement Leadership Profile.

The Role of the Senior Vice President for Student Engagement

This is a role for an educational leader and innovator. The Senior Vice President for Student Engagement will be a collaborative, inclusive and experienced professional who is excited about the opportunity to build a fully integrated model for enrollment and student life. As a key and highly visible institutional leader, the Senior Vice President for Student Engagement will partner with an inspired senior group that has come together in support of a common and enthusiastic vision for the University's future.

The Senior Vice President for Student Engagement will provide transformational leadership for a forward-thinking and dynamic enrollment and student life operation, and will be responsible for developing, articulating, and implementing an ambitious and thoughtful strategic plan for enhancing the way students experience Simmons outside the classroom. Key responsibilities will include enrollment positioning, planning and retention. In creating a new and connected model for enrollment and student life, the Senior Vice President for Student Engagement will achieve the University's goal of supporting a seamless, integrated, and inclusive student experience across undergraduate, graduate, and online student populations, providing the direction, leadership, and strategy to optimize Simmons's current and future enrollment and student engagement programs.

In overseeing this new division, the Senior Vice President for Student Engagement will advocate and advance the student life cycle and student welfare, including a strong focus on the matters that influence student retention. The Senior Vice President for Student Engagement will be responsible for key revenue management of approximately $100 million, including $120 million in gross tuition, $15.7 million in room and board, and $49 million in financial aid. In addition, the Senior Vice President will provide leadership for a team of approximately 77 full-time staff and will manage a budget of about $8 million in the following areas:

Division of Student Affairs

  • Athletics
  • Multicultural Student Affairs
  • Residence Life
  • Student Counseling Services
  • Student Disability Services
  • Student Engagement
  • Student Health Services
  • Student Spiritual Life

Division of Enrollment Management

  • Bursar
  • Financial Aid
  • Graduate Admissions
  • Undergraduate Admissions

Key Relationships and Collaborations

To advance the mission, vision and goals of Simmons University, the Senior Vice President will work collaboratively and strategically with senior leaders, including the President, the Provost, the Senior Vice President of Institutional Advancement, Senior Vice President and General Counsel, the Senior Vice President of Organizational Culture, Inclusion and Equity (OCIE), the Vice President of Strategic Initiatives, the Chief of Staff and the Deans.

Among the key collaborations and partnerships for this position is work with the office of OCIE, which is leading the work to make Simmons University the most inclusive campus in New England -- one of six strategic priorities outlined in the University’s 2022 Strategic Vision. By approaching diversity work in a systemic and multidimensional way — so it is embedded in all Simmons does — Simmons will demonstrate the tremendous educational and cultural benefits that equity and inclusion initiatives have served and will continue to serve the Simmons community, the U.S. and the world.

Professional Qualifications and Leadership Competencies

The new Senior Vice President for Student Engagement will have an unwavering commitment to students and take an authentic interest in the lives and development of pre-college and college students (undergraduate, graduate, online, including first-generation students and second-career students). The successful candidate will have expertise in retention, challenges facing women's colleges and either student life or enrollment. The ability to establish a dynamic vision for a new division, to motivate and inspire colleagues, and manage priorities while maintaining forward momentum is essential. Experience with appropriate technology and the use of sophisticated data analysis to inform strategic decisions is important, as is experience with marketing and leveraging financial aid for recruitment and retention.

The ideal candidate will have the following professional qualifications and personal characteristics:

Vision and leadership: The ability to lead the creation of future student bodies with optimism and creativity and to envision and execute on an optimal student experience; an entrepreneurial outlook and eye to new possibilities and emerging challenges; the ability to develop and manage relationships with a diverse array of partners; and an ability to manage, motivate, and develop synergies and a sense of team among a highly diverse professional staff;

Dedication to diversity, equity, access and inclusion: Demonstrated commitment to diversity, equity, access and inclusion applied to enrollment and student success as well as hiring and developing a diverse staff; a portfolio of meaningful contributions to building a multicultural student community; and a track record of enhancing numerical and qualitative diversity among students and university staff; demonstrating cultural intelligence, and appreciation of difference, understanding of nuance, and the ability to think intentionally with an awareness of the various ways in which the university can be experienced differently by different students;

Proven effectiveness and expertise in enrollment management and/or student life: Demonstrated ability to develop and implement successful enrollment and/or student life strategies and initiatives; a track record of success in leading or working closely with enrollment is highly desired;

Exceptional analytical and technological skills: The ability to engage in constant strategic and financial analysis of opportunities and challenges; the ability to produce forward-looking, transparent plans and revenue budgets that link expenditures to outcomes; analytic capacity to assess the effectiveness of how funds are employed to achieve enrollment and student life goals; ability to produce regular and systematic comparative reports that detail month-to-month as well as annual progress toward goals; capability to use predictive analytics to inform recruitment and student success initiatives; and the ability to support the use of new technology, including digital content and mobile media, to engage prospective as well as current students and their parents;

Commitment to retention and student success, and a holistic understanding of student life: The ability to recruit and retain students through engagement and in the delivery of a positive and educational and personal experiences, and a commitment to assuring the success of all students from diverse backgrounds and experiences; an understanding of student development that is aligned with the University’s mission; ability to build programs that anticipate moral, social, and psychological concerns of a talented, contemporary, and diverse student body; familiarity with residential education and other student affairs functions; and knowledge of and ability to use best practices, prior experience, professional standards, and research literature to guide and support both enrollment and student affairs work;

Ability to market an institution so as to achieve superior levels of enrollment performance: Proven success in innovative thinking and risk-taking combined with excellent execution of both complex and routine marketing strategies; ability to carry out marketing functions with close attention to the needs of the University and the match between it and its potential students; and an ability to think creatively and to leverage technology;

Ability to inhabit a high-visibility role with grace: A genuine and visible enjoyment and understanding of college students in the widest and deepest sense, with the ability to build trust and mutually respectful relationships with students and also with those who influence students such as high school counselors and parents; the capacity to interact directly and positively with a wide range of constituents including students, alumni, trustees, faculty, administrative colleagues, staff, parents of current and prospective students, community leaders, the public, and to serve as a frequent and articulate spokesperson for the University as a highly visible member of the University’s leadership team;

Personal qualities and characteristics: Mature communication skills with the ability to articulate a vision effectively to all constituencies; a sense of urgency and engagement; honesty, integrity, and a strong internal moral compass; resilience; optimism, confidence, and managerial courage and excitement about change; a genuine interest in forming a team with key University leaders, particularly those in academic affairs; an eagerness to develop a team and collaborate cross-functionally; a personal presence that is inclusive; and an ability to observe, listen, learn, and clarify needs while engendering trust quickly among various constituencies.

Academic credentials: Senior level experience at a complex organization with significant experience and expertise in either Student Life or Enrollment is required. Bachelor’s degree required; master’s degree strongly preferred.

Procedure for Candidacy

Inquiries, nominations, and applications are invited. Consistent with our goals to achieve diversity at all levels of university leadership, Simmons welcomes nominations and applications from individuals in traditionally underrepresented groups and those dedicated to building a culture of inclusive excellence at Simmons.

The University values diversity and is committed to equal opportunity for all persons regardless of age, ancestry, class, color, disability, ethnicity, gender identify and expression, marital status, national origin, race, religion, sexual orientation, veteran status or any other status protected by law.

Review of applications will begin immediately and continue until the position is filled. Candidates should provide, as two separate documents, a resume and a letter of application that addresses the responsibilities and requirements described in the Leadership Profile. These materials should be sent electronically via e-mail to Simmons University’s consultants Amy Crutchfield and Shelley Arakawa at The consultants can also be reached through the desk of Paula Verace at

Executive Search Committee

Theresa Brewer

Kerri Brophy
Associate Vice President, Simmons Online 

Shari Johnson
Professor of Practice, Social Work 

Em Claire Knowles
Associate Dean for Academic Support 

Alix Laager

Sabika Mirza

Catherine Paden
Associate Provost and Dean of the Undergraduate Program 

Andy Porter
Associate Professor of Practice, Communications 

Kathy Rogers
Senior Vice President and General Counsel 

Lisa Smith McQueenie
Assistant Vice President for Diversity & Inclusion 

Amy White, Chair
Senior Vice President, Institutional Advancement