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Three senior-level staff will join the Office of the Chancellor in January, taking on key roles as Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education moves forward with its redesign effort intended to ensure students have continued access to a high-value educational experience. Sharon Minnich of Lewisberry will serve as vice chancellor for administration and finance; Kate Shirley Akers of Lexington, Ky., will serve as assistant vice chancellor for educational and business intelligence; and Cody Jones of West Chester will serve as chief strategic relations officer.
– Three senior-level staff will join the Office of the Chancellor in January, taking on key roles as Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education moves forward with its redesign effort intended to ensure students have continued access to a high-value educational experience.
Sharon Minnich of Lewisberry will serve as vice chancellor for administration and finance; Kate Shirley Akers of Lexington, Ky., will serve as assistant vice chancellor for educational and business intelligence; and Cody Jones of West Chester will serve as chief strategic relations officer.
“These three individuals bring with them exceptional skills to help us reshape and redesign the System to better serve our students and the Commonwealth,” said Chancellor Dan Greenstein. “I’m excited they are joining us at a time when everyone is focused on charting a new path for the State System far into the future.”
The State System redesign began last year following a top-to-bottom review of the universities and the Office of the Chancellor. As a result of that review, the Board of Governors established three priorities: ensuring student success; leveraging the universities’ strengths; and transforming the System’s governance structure. Greenstein was hired earlier this year as the System’s fifth chancellor, in large part to lead the redesign effort.
“I am impressed by how quickly our new chancellor has mobilized the entire System to advance System Redesign. Building his team is a key component,” said Board Chair Cynthia D. Shapira. “This is just one more example of the sense of urgency he brings to the job—a sense of urgency that is critical and that is propelling our redesign effort forward.”
The System’s commitment to transformation has been evidenced by the progress that was made in phase one of the System Redesign, according to Shapira. Phase two of the redesign also has been moving at a “healthy pace,” with task groups created this fall scheduled to bring recommendations to the Board in January. “Having these new leaders in place is vitally important to our forward momentum,” Shapira said.
Greenstein also will present his vision for the future of the State System at that meeting, and during his scheduled “State of the System” address.
“This Board’s clear commitment to transformative change is what captured my attention and drew me to the State System,” said Greenstein. “And I’m convinced that is why we’ve been able to attract such stellar talent as we searched—both inside and outside the state—to fill these roles.”
The appointments are part of the chancellor’s broader efforts to realign vacant positions and existing staff within the office to better serve the State System’s students, faculty and staff.
Minnich currently serves as secretary of the Governor’s Office of Administration, a position she has held since 2015. In that role, she has implemented a shared service model involving both human resources and IT that produced initial savings to the state of more than $30 million. She also has worked in other key roles in the public and private sector.
“Sharon has demonstrated an ability to lead change within complex, people-centric organizations,” Greenstein said. “Frankly, that describes us pretty well, and I’m confident she can do the same here.”
Akers has served as executive director of the Kentucky Center for Statistics for the past four years—leading the agency responsible for evaluating education and training, conducting research and helping policy makers make data-informed decisions. She will lead the fusion of the System’s educational intelligence and business intelligence data operations “to leverage all of our data in a more cohesive way to help us make better decisions,” said Greenstein. “Every strategic move we make must be supported by sound data.”
Jones is an experienced public affairs professional who has led or advised a number of political campaigns in Pennsylvania, after launching his career in West Virginia and Kentucky. He will work to enhance relationships with elected officials, business and community leaders, university trustees and others to help expand their appreciation for the value of public higher education and—more specifically—how State System universities deliver a high-value, high-quality educational experience to students.
“Cody is a natural connector, and his primary task will be to help better connect our stakeholders to the System so they understand their role in helping to shape its future,” Greenstein said.
(NOTE: Exact start dates and compensation for the new appointments are being determined.)
Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education comprises 14 public universities, which combined enroll the largest number of Pennsylvania residents among all four-year colleges and universities in the Commonwealth. With nearly 100,000 degree-seeking students and thousands more enrolled in certificate and other career-development programs, the State System is a vital contributor to the Pennsylvania economy, generating an estimated $6.7 billion of economic activity annually. Collectively, the State System universities offer more than 2,300 degree and certificate programs in more than 530 academic areas. The universities have nearly 800,000 living alumni, the vast majority of whom reside in Pennsylvania.
The State System universities are Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester Universities of Pennsylvania. The universities also operate branch campuses in Oil City (Clarion), Freeport and Punxsutawney (IUP), and Clearfield (Lock Haven), and offer classes and programs at several regional centers, including the Dixon University Center in Harrisburg and in Center City in Philadelphia.
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