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Shaffer appointed interim senior vice chancellor; Unruh, Mulhearn accept new positions

Julie Shaffer will serve as the senior vice chancellor for one year or until the position is permanently filled. Photo by Kolton Maturey / Antelope Staff

Interim Senior Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs

Chancellor Doug Kristensen announced the appointment of Julie Shaffer as the new interim senior vice chancellor of academic affairs on July 11. Shaffer will hold the role for one year or until a permanent senior vice chancellor is hired.

Since coming into her new position, Shaffer has enjoyed the new challenges and interactions.

“I’ve got to meet all the people who work in the different offices under my supervision these last few weeks,” Shaffer said. “That’s been a lot of fun to hear what their plans are for the new school year, what exciting things they’re doing for students and how they’re improving their programs.”

Shaffer came to UNK in 1999 where she started as an assistant professor. Since, she’s been a full professor, department chair and co-department chair in the Biology Department. Her duties in the Biology Department are on pause while she serves as senior vice chancellor. 

Shaffer said she wishes to have a positive impact on UNK.

“I hope to provide some transparency in my office as to what direction we’re going, what our goals are and what plans of action we have,” Shaffer said. “I hope to be a strong supporter of the faculty in their academic endeavors and how they structure their classes and their academic freedom. But I also want to see the students succeed, that our programs are designed for student success and that we’re providing them the skills and tools they need for their future.”

Kristen Majocha previously held the role of senior vice chancellor of academic affairs from July 2022 up until Shaffer’s appointment. She now serves as faculty in the Communication Department.

Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

New shoes are also filling the associate vice chancellor for academic affairs role. Nita Unruh accepted the position, effective on Sep. 1, 2023.

Unruh came to UNK in the fall of 1999. She is a professor in the Kinesiology and Sport Sciences Department and was the department chair for 17 years. During her time at UNK, she was also the program coordinator of the Sports Management Program.

Unruh said she likes to be behind the scenes and help other people shine.

“As a department chair, I think always my goal was, “How can I help the department,”’ Unruh said. “Or ‘How can I help the department be better or help the faulty be better or get them where they want to go?’ I think I kind of want to do that but on a bigger scale.”

Unruh will continue to teach and work with the Kinesiology and Sport Sciences Department chairs. Along with working closely with the senior vice chancellor, Unruh plans to help revive the Center for Teaching Excellence with its new interim director.

Interim director for the Center for Teaching Excellence

Shannon Mulhearn accepted the position as interim director for the Center for Teaching Excellence. Mulhearn said the Center for Teaching Excellence supports the mission of UNK by focusing on the future needs of students and teachers.

Mulhearn has been teaching since 2000 and said she is a big advocate for meaningful teaching practices. She came to UNK in 2020 where she has been an assistant professor in the Kinesiology and Sports Sciences Department since.

As she takes on the director position, Mulhearn said she hopes to bring the Center back to the forefront.

“There are great things happening (at UNK),” Mulhearn said. “We are a teaching university. So what I want to see is I want that reputation to extend beyond Nebraska. I want people to know how amazing our faculty are and to know the great practices. I really want to use the Center for Teaching Excellence to make UNK the center of teaching excellence.”

A permanent director will be sought in the 2023-24 academic year.

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Jenna Heinz
Jenna Heinz, Reporter
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