The Board of Governors at Missouri Southern State University has unanimously voted to elect Dr. Dean Van Galen to serve as the university’s sixth president.
“The board believes Dr. Van Galen demonstrates exactly the experience, education and background we were seeking to lead Southern,” said Bill Gipson, board chairman.
Van Galen will begin his tenure on July 1.
The selection follows an eight-month national search led by a 14-member search committee comprised of board members, faculty, staff, community representatives, alumni and students, and managed by EFL Associates, an executive search and recruitment firm based in Kansas City. Nearly 70 applications were submitted for the position, culminating in the three campus town hall sessions held May 6-8.
“I want to thank the members of the Presidential Search Advisory Committee for the thoughtful consideration, energy and time they put into this effort,” said Alison Hershewe, vice chair of the Board of Governors and chair of the Presidential Search Advisory Committee.
“The diverse points of view each of them brought made all the difference during the search process. The committee members were excellent representatives of both Missouri Southern and our community. The Board is immensely grateful to each of them for sharing their insight, generous help, and service.”
A 1982 graduate of University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Van Galen earned a Ph.D. in analytical chemistry from Kansas State University. His career in higher education began as an assistant professor of chemistry at Truman State University and progressed to senior leadership roles at that university, the University of West Florida and most recently as chancellor of University of Wisconsin-River Falls.
He brings to Missouri Southern a proven track record of academic and leadership experience, particularly in the areas of fundraising and governmental relations.
During his tenure at University of Wisconsin-River Falls, the university was ranked eighth in the nation in 2019 for “Worth the Cost/Best College Value” by the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education, based on a survey of 174,000 students. It was ranked No. 1 among the 11 University of Wisconsin comprehensive campuses in 2018-19 for percentage of bachelor degree recipients participating in study abroad and, under his leadership, successfully completed the university’s first comprehensive fundraising campaign.
Van Galen led development and implementation of 2012-20 university’s strategic plan, Pathway to Distinction, with three focused goals: Distinctive Academic Excellence, Global Education and Engagement, and Innovation and Partnerships. Last year, the university was successfully reaccredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
“I am honored to be selected by the Board of Governors as the sixth president of Missouri Southern State University,” said Van Galen.
“Missouri Southern is a success story within public higher education, and has unique attributes that set it apart. The international theme that is part of the university’s mission has long distinguished MSSU within Missouri and the nation. The university’s connection with the dynamic city of Joplin and surrounding region provide unique opportunities for collaboration and growth. And, as was evident to me during the presidential search process, there is an extraordinarily strong sense of community here.
“I believe that Missouri Southern is an outstanding university with a promising future. I look forward to serving MSSU, building on its strong foundation, and working with others to further advance and distinguish the university. Both Mary and I are excited about becoming part of the Missouri Southern family.”
Mary Van Galen, his wife, currently teaches adult English language learners from 19 different countries in rural Wisconsin. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from Washburn University, as well as master’s degrees in nursing and in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. The Van Galens have one adult daughter.
Anita Oplotnik, chair of the Board of Governors’ Academic Affairs Committee, said that Van Galen’s values, leadership, experience and passion make him an ideal fit for Missouri Southern.
“I appreciate all the hard work of the presidential search advisory committee who brought us Dr. Dean Van Galen as one of their top candidates for the next president of Missouri Southern,” she said. “I look forward to our continued growth and success of the university under his leadership.”
“Dr. Van Galen is a collaborative strategic thinker who will help propel Missouri Southern forward,” said Carlos Haley, chair of the board’s Budget and Audit Committee. “I would like to welcome him to the MOSO family.”
Hershewe said every step of the search process played a key role in the board’s ultimate decision.
“Starting with the nominations and the naming of the search advisory committee, selection of the search firm, development of the position profile, solicitation of candidates, selection of semi-finalists, semi-finalist interviews, finalist interviews and, finally, the town halls, I believe, gave great assurance to the Board of Governors,” she said.
“Dr. Van Galen is very strong in all the areas the Presidential Search Advisory Committee and Board of Governors judged to be most important for our next president. He is a fit in every aspect of the position profile. He checks all of the boxes. His demonstrated commitment to the student experience impressed us all. All of us – students, faculty, staff and Board of Governors – feel both confidence and excitement as we anticipate his presidency.”
A press conference has been set for 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 19, in the North End Zone Facility. A live stream will be available to view at https://youtu.be/1ezyWnC86ew.
Principal terms of the contract are attached. More information about Van Galen can be found on Missouri Southern’s presidential search website.