Notable Leaders in Higher Education 2021

Our business community depends on higher education to train and prepare a talented workforce. Minnesota boasts an incredible network of colleges and universities staffed by leaders who pour themselves into lifting up the next generation. In 2020, educators persevered and found ways to support students even when campuses shut down due to Covid, forcing everyone remote. For quickly adapting, learning new technologies, and always prioritizing the students, our 2021 Notable Leaders in Higher Education deserve a round of applause.

Methodology: The individuals featured did not pay to be included. Their profiles were drawn from nomination materials. This list is not comprehensive. It includes only people who were nominated and accepted after editorial review. To qualify for this list, individuals must be serving in a higher education role in Minnesota, have at least five years of experience in higher education, and have shown the ability to create significant, positive, and measurable results in their field.

To nominate other best-in-class executives in their fields, click here.

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Kathlene Holmes Campbell

Kathlene Holmes Campbell

Dean, School of Education, University of St. Thomas
Since Kathlene Holmes Campbell became dean in 2018, the St. Thomas School of Education has been working to increase the number of teachers from underrepresented backgrounds. This year, she submitted
Lori  Carrell

Lori Carrell

Chancellor, University of Minnesota Rochester (UMR)
Since joining UMR as vice chancellor in 2014 (she was named chancellor in February 2018), Lori Carrell has spearheaded various evidence-based education innovations, including Health Scholars Day, a scholarship competition
John Coleman

John Coleman

Dean, College of Liberal Arts, University of Minnesota – Twin Cities
John Coleman has positioned the University of Minnesota’s College of Liberal Arts (CLA) as a destination college since becoming dean in 2014. While other liberal arts schools have seen enrollment
Mary Schmid Daugherty

Mary Schmid Daugherty

Senior fellow in applied science, University of St. Thomas
Mary Schmid Daugherty takes textbook knowledge and brings it to life, bridging academia and business. She has guided hundreds of students through the complex realm of investing, teaching them how
Laura Fero

Laura Fero

Dean of nursing, Henrietta Schmoll School of Health, St. Catherine University
Laura Fero’s values-driven curriculum creates a cohesive nursing program focusing on cultural fluency and inclusivity. At the Henrietta Schmoll School of Health, she has been integral in prioritizing relationship-centered care,
María Pabón Gautier

María Pabón Gautier

Interim vice president for equity and inclusion, St. Olaf College
María Pabón Gautier was named the inaugural director of St. Olaf’s Taylor Center for Equity and Inclusion. Founded in 2019, the Taylor Center aims to create an inclusive environment for
Theodor Gordon

Theodor Gordon

Visiting assistant professor of sociology, College of Saint Benedict/Saint John’s University
Theodor Gordon works to serve everyone in the two central Minnesota colleges’ culturally diverse communities. He is a member of the Community Education and Research Committee for the Central Minnesota
Devinder Malhotra

Devinder Malhotra

Chancellor, Minnesota State
In 2018, Devinder Malhotra was named chancellor of Minnesota State, the nation’s third-largest higher education system. He was instrumental in the Minnesota State board’s adoption of Equity 2030, which seeks
Sanjit Sethi

Sanjit Sethi

President, Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD)
The pandemic hit just as Sanjit Sethi took over as president at MCAD. Structural shifts in higher education such as distance learning and cost control were already in play because
Tarshia Stanley

Tarshia Stanley

Dean, School of Humanities, Arts, and Sciences, St. Catherine University
A prime example of Tarshia Stanley’s innovative liberal arts program development work at St. Paul-based St. Kate’s is creation of the Integrated Learning Series, which connects curriculum and programming across
Anita Thomas

Anita Thomas

Executive vice president and provost, St. Catherine University
In her role providing strategic leadership for academics at St. Kate’s, Anita Thomas has led the development of the university’s academic master plan, which redefines the student experience by establishing
Maggie Tomas

Maggie Tomas

Director, Graduate Business Career Center, Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota–Twin Cities
Maggie Tomas supervises a team of 12 career coaches and business development professionals while connecting more than 1,500 graduate students in eight programs with employment opportunities. During her nine years
Rajiv Vaidyanathan

Rajiv Vaidyanathan

Department head and professor of marketing, University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD)
Notable among Rajiv Vaidyanathan’s many accomplishments at UMD is pioneering the university’s marketing analytics program, one of the first of its kind in the nation. This program led to the
Robbyn Wacker

Robbyn Wacker

President, St. Cloud State University
After assuming the presidency of St. Cloud State in 2018, Robbyn Wacker met with students, faculty, business and community leaders, and others to learn what the university was doing well
Rich Wagner

Rich Wagner

President, Dunwoody College of Technology
When the pandemic hit in 2020, longtime president Rich Wagner directed the Dunwoody Safe plan, allowing the Minneapolis-based college to offer hybrid learning in summer and partially reopen the campus
Michelle Wieser

Michelle Wieser

Dean, School of Business and Technology, Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota
After building a new strategic plan for the School of Business and Technology that unites programming across Saint Mary’s campuses, Michelle Wieser was selected to lead a strategic initiative to
Yohuru Williams

Yohuru Williams

Distinguished university chair, professor of history, and founding director of the Racial Justice Initiative, University of St. Thomas
In June 2020, St. Thomas announced the formation of its Racial Justice Initiative, a program that works with individuals and organizations to reimagine a future for the Twin Cities free