Bluffton University names next president

 Dr. Jane Wood

Dr. Jane Wood

BLUFFTON, Ohio – For just the tenth time in its 119-year history, Bluffton University’s Board of Trustees has named a new president, announcing that Dr. Jane Wood has accepted the call to serve as Bluffton’s next president beginning July 1, 2018.

“Dr. Wood has demonstrated success in achieving enrollment growth at several institutions by leading academic program innovation, strategic planning, alignment and visioning processes that moved those institutions forward, along with proven success in building relationships for public and private partnerships to broaden the school’s reach,” said Kent Yoder, chairperson of the Bluffton University Board of Trustees. “She is a committed Christian with leadership experience at both Catholic and Protestant institutions and has a passion for social justice. We are excited that she was drawn to Bluffton for its mission, history and faith tradition rooted in peace and social justice. The Board is united in agreement that Dr. Jane Wood is the right person for this time in Bluffton’s history.”

Dr. Wood currently serves as the vice president of academic affairs and dean at Mount Marty College, a Benedictine liberal arts and co-educational institution in Yankton, S.D. Her previous professional positions were at Westminster College, in New Wilmington, Pa.; Park University and University of Missouri, both in Kansas City, Mo.; and at Baker University in Baldwin City, Kan. Her experience in higher education includes positions as a tenured faculty member, department chair, academic dean and vice president. Dr. Wood earned her Ph.D. and master’s degree in English literature from the University of Kansas and a bachelor’s degree in English literature from the University of Missouri.

“This is an exciting time in the life of Bluffton University and it will be an honor to build on the substantial and outstanding programs that are already in place and innovate with the campus community to build new programs that will provide sustainable bridges to the future,” said Wood. “I will lead with an appreciation for Bluffton’s history and its fine reputation as an institution firmly rooted in the ideals of the liberal arts and sciences and framed by the values of the Mennonite/Anabaptist faith. Bluffton’s compelling mission, distinctive history and traditions offer an opportunity to refine and connect a successful past with an exciting future.”

In her previous roles, Dr. Wood worked collaboratively with faculty, staff, students and public and private partners to develop strategic plans that spurred enrollment growth through academic program development including undergraduate, adult studies and graduate-level programs.

“It is exciting to create, with campus and community collaboration, an innovative and practical strategic vision with academic excellence at its core,” said Wood. “I believe there are significant growth opportunities for right-sized, Christian, liberal arts institutions who work closely with for-profit and non-profit entities to identify the best fit for students for internships, future employment and partnership investments in key identified areas of the university’s academic programs. These initiatives must be balanced with a commitment to a core liberal arts education that equips graduates for success across the full range of professions and for advanced studies in a constantly changing world.”

Dr. Wood also has experience in implementing successful Title IX program improvements, including diversity hiring initiatives, and in fundraising. She has a breadth of experience with different college settings including serving for and interacting with students and faculty at public, private, and Catholic and Presbyterian institutions.

“As a woman who was born and raised in the United Methodist Church (and where my husband and I raised our two daughters), I understand the power of faith as it resonates in individual lives and as it infuses organizations,” said Wood. “Faith is central in my own life and my integrity is guided by my deepening spiritual compass. I am drawn to Bluffton’s Mennonite/Anabaptist faith history for multiple reasons. As a trained mediator, I am committed to Bluffton’s restorative justice principles and understand that Bluffton has always been welcoming to students of all faith backgrounds and is committed to encouraging informed understanding and dialogue, core values that are in great need during this time in our nation and our world. Bluffton’s mission is both special and essential and why I feel called to serve and lead at this time.”

Dr. Wood also noted her enthusiasm for Bluffton’s current $26 million comprehensive fundraising campaign including construction of the Austin E. Knowlton Science Center. To date, Simply Innovate—The Campaign for Bluffton, has surpassed 60 percent of the university’s total campaign goal and more than 80 percent of the funding needed for the science center. In her previous roles, Wood has demonstrated success in developing academic programs related to health care and increasing partnerships that enhance enrollment.

“I look forward to engaging with energy and enthusiasm the many constituents of Bluffton University to achieve the goals of Simply Innovate—The Campaign for Bluffton,” said Wood. “I applaud all that Dr. Harder has done to position Bluffton for continued success and am excited to carry forward the vision for Bluffton’s emerging excellence in the natural and health science areas. Without doubt, the university’s current goal to open Knowlton Science Center for the 2020/21 academic year is achievable, and I look forward to investing myself fully with staff and volunteers to make this dream a reality for Bluffton students.”

Bluffton’s presidential search process was led by Cheryl Hacker, Bluffton alumna and vice chair of the Board of Trustees. The Search Committee included board members, faculty, staff, a student, a community member, the president of the Bluffton University Alumni Association, a representative from Mennonite Education Agency and alumni representatives from the Ohio Conference and the Central District Conference of Mennonite Church USA. The committee began their work in September and received more than 50 applications for the presidency.

“We had a fully inclusive process, with the opportunity for faculty, staff and students to meet the final candidates and provide feedback,” said Yoder, board chair. “The Board extends its appreciation to the committee and the campus community for their thoughtful engagement and prayers of support during the presidential search process.”   

Dr. Wood follows Dr. James M. Harder who will retire in June after completing 12 years as president at Bluffton University and more than 30 years working in higher education.