The University of Lynchburg has appointed Dr. Alison Morrison-Shetlar as its 11th president.
Her term will begin in July 2020 after the retirement of Dr. Kenneth R. Garren, who has served Lynchburg as president since 2001.
“Dr. Morrison-Shetlar is accomplished as both an educator and a leader in private and public higher education,” Nathaniel Marshall, chair of the Board of Trustees, said. “She has shown a commitment to quality teaching, research, and collaborative leadership. We are excited to work with her and to introduce her to our students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of the University in the coming year.”
In 2014, Morrison-Shetlar became the provost at Western Carolina University. While leading Western Carolina’s academic program through a time of expansion, she also served in other capacities — including 18 months as interim chancellor and nine months as interim vice chancellor for development and alumni engagement. Her accomplishments at Western Carolina include implementation of the NC Promise Tuition plan; development of innovative new academic programs; completion of a successful, comprehensive fundraising campaign; and management of the campus through a period of constant construction and growth in the student body.
She also has held leadership roles as dean of Elon College of Arts and Sciences at Elon University, vice provost and dean of undergraduate studies at the University of Central Florida, and director of faculty development at Georgia Southern University.
Morrison-Shetlar brings a wealth of international experience to the presidential post. A native of Scotland, Morrison-Shetlar earned a bachelor’s degree in biology and chemistry and a doctorate in biomedical science from Dundee College of Technology (now Abertay University). She was the founding chair of the molecular biology unit at the Max Planck Institute in Dortmund, Germany, and a teacher-scholar at Bochum University in Bochum, Germany, and at the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology in London.
She will be the first woman and the first person born outside the United States to serve as president of the University of Lynchburg.
“I was drawn to presidency at the University of Lynchburg because I believe in the values of the University and the excellence of the students, faculty, and staff,” Morrison-Shetlar said. “The University of Lynchburg prepares students to be engaged, contributing citizens who embrace diversity and inclusive excellence. There is a deep commitment to community engagement and developing leadership potential for the growth and enrichment of all. These characteristics mirror my own passion for making a difference in the lives of others, and they are why I wish to become part of the University of Lynchburg family.
“I am honored to have been selected to be the University of Lynchburg’s 11th president and will work with passion, enthusiasm, respect, and humor to ensure the success of the mission, vision, and goals of the University.”
She said students she met at Lynchburg tipped the scales for her.
“It was the students that I met while walking around campus, who didn’t know who I was or why I was there, and who were eager to tell me how much they loved being at this University and how much they appreciated the support of the faculty and staff,” Morrison-Shetlar said. “They expressed to me the difference that experiential learning opportunities made in their education and choice of career, graduate or professional school, and it was the students that let me know that I was going to become a part of a vibrant University community. The students are the reason that we do what we do — their success is our success!”
The presidential search was launched in 2018 after Garren announced his upcoming retirement. Partnering with the search firm WittKieffer, the University asked students, faculty, staff, and alumni to share their thoughts on the profile for the 11th president. More than 100 candidates applied for the position.
“The Presidential Search Committee reviewed many highly qualified candidates, but, ultimately, we believe that Dr. Alison Morrison-Shetlar’s qualifications match the University’s needs perfectly,” said Dr. Kathryn M. Pumphrey, a trustee and lead co-chair of the Presidential Search Committee. “Dr. Morrison-Shetlar brings with her a diverse skill set which includes collaborative leadership, a strong academic background, fundraising acumen, and a deep understanding of the opportunities and challenges facing higher education today.”
Morrison-Shetlar’s tenure comes after an ambitious period of growth. During Garren’s 19-year service as president, the institution increased the number of graduate programs offered and grew its graduate student population more than fourfold. It built or renovated facilities including Schewel Hall, the Graduate Health Sciences building, Drysdale Student Center, on-campus townhomes, and the newly minted Westover Hall, a nearly 90,000 square-foot residence hall with student housing and academic space. Lynchburg sports teams have won about 90 conference championships during Garren’s tenure, as student-athletes continue to excel in academics as well. A new general education program was implemented in 2019.
In 2018, Lynchburg College changed its name to University of Lynchburg to reflect its growth and the breadth, depth, and quality of its academic programs at the undergraduate and graduate level. Future plans include renovations and expansions of science classrooms and research facilities, as well as athletics facilities.