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Dr. Dale-Elizabeth Pehrsson named president of Clarion University of Pennsylvania

Dean of Central Michigan University’s College of Education and Human Services to begin new role July 1

Contact: Kenn Marshall, (717) 720-4054 or (717) 329-0809
​Harrisburg – The Board of Governors of Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education today unanimously selected Dr. Dale-Elizabeth Pehrsson, dean of the College of Education and Human Services at Central Michigan University, to be the next president of Clarion University of Pennsylvania, effective July 1.
Dr. Pehrsson has been in her current role since 2012. She has more than 25 years of experience in higher education, beginning her academic career as an affiliate faculty member and clinical supervisor for counselor education at Idaho State University in 1991. She also has worked in the healthcare field, as both a counselor and registered nurse.
“Dr. Pehrsson has an extraordinary range of professional experience, as a teacher, practitioner and administrator in both higher education and healthcare,” said Board of Governors Chairwoman Cynthia D. Shapira. “Her extensive background and commitment to students will serve Clarion University well as it strives to advance its mission of serving students, the community and the Commonwealth.”
As dean of the College of Education and Human Services at Central Michigan, Dr. Pehrsson serves as the college’s chief executive and academic officer, initiating new programs, including the expansion of international programs, while advancing scholarship, research and other creative activity. She is responsible for recruitment, retention and advancement of faculty and oversees an annual budget of $40 million. She supervises five academic units; 10 education, service and research centers; and more than 230 faculty and staff.
“Dr. Pehrsson has a unique set of tools that makes her an ideal fit for Clarion University and its focus on professional programs,” said State System Interim Chancellor Karen M. Whitney, who served as Clarion’s president for seven years before assuming her current role in September. “They are a perfect match. I am certain Dale will be a great addition to both Clarion University and the State System. I am thrilled that she will be joining our leadership team.”
Dr. Pehrsson said she is excited about the opportunity to serve as Clarion’s next president.
“I am highly honored to have been chosen as the 17th president of Clarion University,” she said. “The strengths of the faculty, staff, community and stakeholders are inspiring. I will seek and welcome advice and support from all constituents. Clarion University has a strong reputation and I look forward to building on our long tradition of excellent teaching and service to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”
The Board’s action today comes at the conclusion of a national search for a successor to Dr. Whitney. Peter Fackler is serving as the university’s interim president and will remain in that role until Dr. Pehrsson’s arrival on campus.
“We are elated to welcome Dr. Dale Pehrsson as Clarion University’s next president,” said JD Dunbar, chairwoman of the university’s Council of Trustees. “She has demonstrated the measure of her mettle as a transformative leader. Her academic credentials cover an oeuvre of majors that resonate with Clarion University’s strengths. She is equally responsive in ‘friend-raising’ as she has been in fundraising.”
Dunbar thanked search committee chair Milissa Bauer and the other members of the search committee, as well as “all of the students, faculty and staff who participated in the process.”
Bauer praised the president-select’s commitment to student success, citing specifically her efforts in “establishing creative initiatives to both recruit and retain students,” and mentioned how well, as a first-generation college student herself, Dr. Pehrsson will relate to many Clarion students.
“She epitomizes the American Dream through education, by first getting associate degrees in liberal arts and nursing, then returning to school to earn progressive degrees, including a doctorate in education,” Bauer said. “Dr. Pehrsson also has experience as the chief operating officer of a hospital, a mental health counselor and as a business owner. Her leadership style will allow her to relate well with our students, our faculty and our entire university community.”
Dr. Pehrsson has a Bachelor of Science degree in liberal studies from the University of State of New York-Albany. She also earned a Master of Education degree in curriculum, instruction and supervision, a Master of Counseling degree, and a Doctor of Education degree in counselor education and counseling, all from Idaho State University. She also has associate degrees in nursing and liberal arts.
In addition to her ongoing role as dean at Central Michigan, Dr. Pehrsson also spent a year as a presidential fellow with the American Council of Education, working directly with the president at Misericordia University in Dallas, Pa. The fellowship focused on faculty and staff development, Board of Trustees relations, fundraising and capital campaigns, finance, accreditation, inclusive excellence, advancing technology, strategic planning, community engagement and service learning.
Prior to her arrival at Central Michigan, Dr. Pehrsson spent five years at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She was hired as an associate professor in the Department of Counselor Education; and, after three years, was promoted to professor. She later served as department chair and then as associate dean of the College of Education.
Dr. Pehrsson previously served as a tenured faculty member at Oregon State University, where she served as a counselor educator in both the Master of Arts in Teaching and Master of Science in counselor education programs. She was an adjunct faculty member at Portland State University in Oregon and an assistant professor at Sam Houston State University in Texas.
While at Idaho State University, she also worked as an elementary school counselor in the Snake River School District and as a child and family counselor in Pocatello, Idaho. She served as a career and personal counselor and founded The Learning Connection-Literacy and Learning Disability Clinic in Pocatello. She was chief operating officer for patient and clinical services at Bingham Memorial Hospital in Blackfoot, Idaho; associate director of nursing and patient services and captain of the maternal transport life flight team at Bannock Regional Medical Center in Pocatello; and a registered nurse at the Lexington School for the Deaf in New York City.
Dr. Pehrsson is a licensed and nationally certified counselor and a member of various professional organizations. She served for two years as president of the Michigan Council of Deans for Education at State Colleges and Universities and remains a member of the group’s Leadership Council. She has authored or co-authored numerous scholarly publications, including a peer-reviewed book titled Core Issues in Child Counseling.
Clarion University, which is celebrating its sesquicentennial, enrolls about 5,200 students. It offers more than 100 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in business, education, health, science and the arts. It opened in 1867 as the Carrier Seminary of Western Pennsylvania. It was converted to Clarion Normal School in 1887 and became a university in 1983, upon the creation of the State System.
Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education is the largest provider of higher education in the Commonwealth, enrolling more than 100,000 degree-seeking students and thousands more in certificate and other career-development programs. Collectively, the 14 universities that comprise the State System offer more than 2,300 degree and certificate programs in more than 530 academic areas.
Nearly 520,000 State System university alumni live in Pennsylvania.
The State System is undertaking a System Redesign, which began last year with a top-to-bottom review of the universities and the Office of the Chancellor. As a result of that review, the Board established three priorities to guide the redesign: Ensuring student success; leveraging the universities’ strengths; and transforming the System’s governance structure. The Board also affirmed its commitment to ensuring the long-term sustainability of all 14 institutions within the System so that each may continue to serve students, its region and the Commonwealth. To view regular updates of the redesign, go to
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.