Leadership reforms surprise students


Michael Guido, News Editor

Gannon University announced Sept. 15 that there will be a restructuring in the university’s leadership in light of a desire to ensure short-term as well as long-term goals are being met.
In an email sent to the Gannon community, university President Keith Taylor, Ph.D., outlined some of the major changes that will be occurring after review and consideration by the Executive Committee of Gannon’s Board of Trustees.
The major change to be announced was the elimination of the position of vice president of Student Development and Engagement, previously held by Brian Nichols.
As part of the email, Taylor took time to thanks Nichols for his eight years at Gannon.
“We are grateful to Brian for his exemplary service and commitment to Gannon and to our students,” Taylor said. “Brian has been a great ambassador for leadership programs and a champion of athletics throughout his tenure.”
Taylor further asked members of the Gannon community to thank Nichols for his “unwavering support” of Gannon, and said he wished him the best in the future.
In light of that change, Taylor announced that the Student Development and Mission and Ministry teams would be joining forces with the Academic Affairs division, which will be overseen by Walter Iwanenko, Ph.D., whose new titles will include provost and vice president for student experience.
Additionally, the Rev. Michael Kesicki will continue to serve in the role of associate vice president of Mission and Ministry, while Bishop Lawrence T. Persico will be taking on the role of university chaplain, per Taylor’s recommendation. Taylor said this was asked in order to “appropriately acknowledge Fr. Kesicki’s priestly role as a pastoral leader in our university community.”
Steve Mauro, Ph.D., in a reconfigured role of vice president for strategy and campus operations, will be responsible in working with facilities, maintenance and grounds, which will report directly to Mauro.
Part of Mauro’s new responsibilities will include working with Val Bacik and Barbara Beuscher to attempt to create new strategic initiatives and revenue paths.
Doug Oathout, who serves as chief marketing and communications officer for the university, will add the title of chief of staff to his job, and will continue to build on his work coordinating efforts throughout the university.
In addition, Bill Edmondson will continue to work with Oathout to meet future enrollment objectives.
Taylor said these changes were initiated due to a need to adjust all aspects of the university, even with the President’s Leadership Team.
“As we have for decades, we will continue to explore strategic opportunities for improving organizational health and to ensure the personal and professional success of our employees and students,” Taylor said.
Further, Taylor said that these changes will lead to more efficiency and will strategically drive forward the university’s most pressing priorities, which were summarized as the “Gannon experience, strategic initiatives and revenue drivers and enrollment success.”
Nichols, throughout his tenure at Gannon, was known to play a decisive role in building student engagement as well as maintaining steady retention figures.
In his time, Nichols played a key role in the “development of numerous programs and projects,” including I-HACK and designs for South Hall, Taylor said in the email.
“He has played a crucial role in enhancing student engagement and retention, growing Gannon’s athletic programs in both size and excellence, and building the foundations of our campus master plan,” Taylor said.
The news of Nichols’ departure stunned many who were caught off guard by the news.
Matt Schlessman, a junior chemistry and pre-dental major, said he was shocked and believes the entire Gannon community was surprised as well.
“I admired Brian for the openness he brought to his department,” Schlessman said.
Schlessman said he remembers Nichols for always being open to the student body and when he was out and about on campus, he would always stop and talk to students.
Although the news was disappointing, Schlessman believes the President’s Leadership Team made the decision with the best interests in mind for the student body, as well as the faculty.
“I’m excited to see where President Taylor and his leadership team guide the Gannon family to create more success and make Gannon a better version of itself,” he said.
Similarly, Devin Williams, a junior pre-med biochemistry and mathematics major, concurred that the news was shocking.
Williams said he did not feel that there was a need for restructuring of the leadership team but was not opposed.
“I trust that the university has their reasons and is transparent with them,” Williams said.


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