The University has formed a search committee to find a replacement for Susan Eklund, the University’s associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students, who plans to retire at the end of this academic term.

Donica Varner, assistant general counsel for the University and chair of the search committee, said Eklund told E. Royster Harper, the University’s vice president for student affairs, of her decision to step down in October.

Though she is a University administrator, Eklund’s retirement was not widely publicized, and few outside the University’s administration were made aware of the decision.

“I am not sure we would do a press release about it,” University spokeswoman Kelly Cunningham said. “Maybe she didn’t announce it publicly.”

Eklund was not available to comment yesterday.

Eklund, a University employee for more than 30 years, was brought out of retirement in 2004 to serve as interim dean of students. She assumed the role permanently in 2006.

She had previously served as the director of user services at Michigan Administrative Information Services, helping to create M-Pathways – a system that stores the University’s financial data and administrative information on the Internet.

Before that, she was associate dean of student affairs and assistant dean at the Law School.

“She’s someone you want as a boss and supervisor,” said Susan Wilson, assistant dean of students and director of the office of student activities and leadership. “She’s a real advocate of students and that’s the bottom line.”

Varner said Eklund spent her time in the office working to improve students’ experiences on campus.

“She was someone who was entirely committed to students and their well-being,” said Varner, who has known Eklund since 1991. “I consider her a mentor, valued colleague, and great friend and I will miss her professionally and as a person.”

Varner said the committee started its search for a replacement during the first week of December. The advertisement for the open position was made public in early January.

She said the search committee has high expectations for Eklund’s replacement.

Varner said the candidate needs to have “outstanding leadership,” be someone with “a strong and sincere belief in diversity,” and be able to “effectively collaborate with various parts of the University.”

“We are looking for a visionary,” she said.

When he or she takes office, Varner said, the new dean of students will face two major challenges. First, recent administrative changes have shifted the responsibilities of the associate vice president for student affairs. Secondly, the chosen candidate will have to deal with the issue of campus security and individual cases of crisis management.

Wilson said she hopes the committee’s final choice is “someone who can be as responsive as (Eklund) has been to students’ needs.”

The 12-person search committee has begun reviewing candidates.

“So far, we are very pleased with the quality and diversity in experience and background of the applicants,” Varner said. “It is a very rich candidate pool.”

The committee hopes to make its their decision by mid-April and Eklund’s replacement is expected to take over in the summer.

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