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Pacific Lutheran University

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Organizational Background

and culture

Pacific Lutheran University purposefully integrates the liberal arts, professional studies and civic engagement in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. With distinctive international programs and collaborative student-faculty research opportunities, PLU helps its 3,100 students from all faiths and backgrounds discern their life’s vocation through coursework, mentorship and internships at world-class, Puget Sound-area businesses and institutions.

Founded in 1890 by Norwegian immigrants, PLU continues its distinctive tradition of Lutheran Higher Education through its commitment to the advancement of knowledge, thoughtful inquiry and questioning, the preparation of citizens in service to the world and to its ongoing reform. As a member of its network of 26 colleges and universities, PLU enjoys a healthy and progressive relationship with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

PLU is located on a 156-acre woodland campus in the Parkland neighborhood of Tacoma, Washington. The campus reflects a consciously “green” agenda, and is in proximity to the natural beauty of Mount Rainier, the Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges, Puget Sound, the Pacific Ocean, and spectacular Pacific Northwest forests. The area offers vast opportunities for outdoor recreation, culture and sports.




Fulbright scholars since 1975


Top 4% of master's universities

A world-engaged, purposeful learning


The university offers 44 majors and 54 minors, as well as graduate and professional programs in business administration, creative writing, education, finance, marketing analytics, marriage and family therapy, and nursing. PLU graduated its first class from the Doctor of Nursing Practice program in 2017.

An honoree on President Obama’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, PLU hosts an Emmy Award-winning MediaLab; a MacArthur Award-winning detachment of Army ROTC; and more than 100 clubs and activities, including 19 varsity athletic teams in the Northwest Conference of NCAA Division III. The university consistently ranks among the top 20 in U.S. News & World Report’s Best Universities in the West, and recently was named fourth in the West for Best Colleges for Veterans. It also ranks in the top 4 percent of master’s universities nationwide by Washington Monthly College Guide.

The university has produced 100 Fulbright Scholars since 1975.

Another hallmark of PLU is its nationally acclaimed School of Arts and Communication. Recent alumni are performing and creating on Broadway, in TV and film, as well as on stages and concert halls around the world, and at news and media organizations nationwide. PLU’s premier choral ensemble, The Choir of the West, has toured Europe, Scandinavia, Japan and China. In 2015, it was awarded the Anton Bruckner Prize as the most outstanding ensemble in the Anton Bruckner Choir Competition, held in Linz, Austria. The recently renovated $20 million Karen Hille Phillips Center for the Performing Arts is the premier performing arts center in the South Puget Sound region.

Pathways to Distinction In PLU 2010

Three pathways to academic distinction were reaffirmed in the university’s third long-range plan: global education, student-faculty research and creative projects, and purposeful learning.

1The first pathway of global education is manifest in a global studies major, as well as a carefully orchestrated study away program. PLU was the first American university to have classes on all seven continents simultaneously, and has received numerous distinctions for study away, including recognition of the percentage of students who study away. In 2016-17, 300 PLU students participated in study away programs, including in nine PLU-operated Gateway programs. The Wang Center for Global Education serves as a coordinating hub for this global initiative, coordinating study away opportunities, research grants and a series of major symposia focused on issues of global concern. PLU became the first university in Washington state — and the first private university on the West Coast — to receive the prestigious Senator Paul Simon Award for Campus Internationalization for its achievements “on and off campus to engage the world and the international community.”

2The second pathway of distinction is student-faculty research and creative projects, which are best understood in the context of the intersection of faculty scholarship and student learning. The former is at the heart of the faculty’s ongoing vocation and spirit of professional excellence; the latter is at the heart of every student’s vocational pathway. For students, collaborating with faculty allows for the best kind of learning to take place, and it cements students’ foundation for a lifetime of thoughtful inquiry. All students participate in collaborative work in their senior capstone seminars. Many student-faculty projects are financed through endowments, presented at professional conferences, and showcased on campus during our annual Dr. Rae Linda Brown Undergraduate Research Symposium. In 2017, its inaugural year, 78 students participated in 45 project presentations at the symposium.

3The third pathway of distinction is purposeful learning. A central tenet of Lutheran Higher Education and central to PLU’s mission is the emphasis on education for lives of service – to find one’s calling, or vocation. Values are inherent in teaching and research at PLU; students are asked to bring their whole selves to their education, preparing to use what they have learned intentionally and courageously for the benefit of others. Purposeful learning is infused in classes and campus life through service learning and pedagogical emphases that encourage connections between rigorous academic work and life outside the classroom. PLU demonstrates this vision in many ways, but particularly through our Wild Hope Center for Vocation, where students, faculty, and staff explore issues that define a life with meaning and in service to others, and to promote human and ecological flourishing.


Self-identify as students of color

Diversity, Justice

& Sustainability

PLU is noted for its commitment to diversity, justice and sustainability. PLU seeks out students from every possible background — all religions, races, socioeconomic groups, sexual orientations, and gender identities — from around the world. For the 2017-18 academic year, 42 percent of incoming first-year students are the first generation in their families to attend college; 37. 8 percent self- identify as students of color; and 31. 8 percent are Pell Grant-eligible.

A new position, Dean for Inclusive Excellence, was established in 2018 with an agenda focused on creating and implementing intentional faculty development opportunities and facilitating, in partnership with Human Resources, the hiring and retention of diverse faculty. Affinity groups such as Black Student Union, Asian- Pacific Islanders Student Association, Latinx Unidos, Queer Ally Student Union and more provide students with spaces where they feel supported and represented. Community spaces such as the Diversity Center and the Center for Gender Equity provide environments for critical discussion and engagement with issues surrounding DJS values at PLU. These groups and spaces afford students of marginalized backgrounds an essential sense of inclusion that has lasting impact on their PLU experience. For its record on sustainability, the university was recognized with a Gold Award from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). In 2014, PLU was a finalist in its category of Master’s Institutions in the Second Nature Climate Leadership Awards for its “off and on setting” educational program for study away air mile carbon mitigation.

And for more than 40 years, PLU has been internationally known for its Holocaust Studies program, which now includes the Kurt Mayer Endowed Chair in Holocaust Studies and the annual Powell-Heller Conference for Holocaust Education. In fall 2014, PLU became one of only a handful of universities nationwide to offer a minor in Holocaust and Genocide Studies.


National Championships


Student-athletes in 2017-18

Lute Athletics

A Tradition of Excellence

Pacific Lutheran University Athletics creates lifelong leaders through a competitive sport environment, making PLU a NCAA Division III premiere program in the Pacific Northwest.

PLU athletics fosters a student-athlete experience elevated by academic achievement, commitment to community involvement, and ongoing personal development. PLU teams have won 11 national championships and a total of 240 Northwest Conference titles since 1966. Individually, 46 Lute student-athletes have captured national championships, and more than 400 student-athletes have been named to All-American teams. In 2017-18, PLU’s 480 student-athletes comprised 17 percent of the student population, continuing the pride in the tradition of Lute excellence and spirit. PLU student-athletes also excel academically, earning 10 NCAA post-graduate scholarships and numerous Academic All-American selections. In the 2016-17 academic year, 72.9 percent of PLU student-athletes have a GPA above 3.0 and all sports had a team GPA of 3.0 or higher.


Southwest of Seattle

About Tacoma,


Tacoma is a mid-sized urban port city and is the county seat of Pierce County, Washington, United States. The city is on Washington’s Puget Sound, 32 miles (51 km) southwest of Seattle, 31 miles (50 km) northeast of the state capital, Olympia, and 58 miles (93 km) northwest of Mount Rainier National Park. The population was 198,397, according to the 2010 census. Tacoma is the second-largest city in the Puget Sound area and the third largest in the state. Tacoma also serves as the center of business activity for the South Sound region, which has a population of about 1 million.

Tacoma has been named of one of the most livable areas in the United States.

Parkland is a sprawling unincorporated area south of Tacoma that blends urban with rural.

Tacoma adopted its name after the nearby Mount Rainier, originally called Takhoma or Tahoma. It is locally known as the “City of Destiny” because the area was chosen to be the western terminus of the Northern Pacific Railroad in the late 19th century. The decision of the railroad was influenced by Tacoma’s neighboring deep-water harbor, Commencement Bay. By connecting the bay with the railroad, Tacoma’s motto became “When rails meet sails.” Commencement Bay serves the Port of Tacoma, a center for international trade on the Pacific Coast and Washington state’s largest port.

Like most central cities, Tacoma suffered a prolonged decline in the mid-20th century as a result of suburbanization and divestment. Since the 1990s, developments in the downtown core include University of Washington Tacoma; Tacoma Link, the first modern electric light rail service in the state; the state’s highest density of art and history museums; and a restored urban waterfront, the Thea Foss Waterway. Neighborhoods such as the Sixth Avenue District have been revitalized.

Tacoma has been named one of the most livable areas in the United States. In 2006, Tacoma was listed as one of the “most walkable” cities in the country.

Parkland is a sprawling unincorporated area south of Tacoma that blends urban with rural, home to roughly 36,000 people, according to U.S. Census data. What it lacks in infrastructure, however, it more than makes up for in diversity. A multicultural area, the Franklin Pierce School District is ranked by Niche as the 13th most diverse in Washington state. Joint Base Lewis-McChord is a stone’s throw to the west and that mix of people from all walks of life is just another foundational element of the community’s complex identity. The university has worked to build strong connections and mutually beneficial partnerships by mobilizing students, staff and faculty volunteers in schools, food banks, community gardens, and Habitat for Humanity, to name a few. And it’s the connection between citizen and community that has become Parkland’s calling card and a bond that PLU students looking to serve have come to respect and emulate.

Professional Experience /


  • A visionary leader, who values the life of the mind, is committed to the tenets of Lutheran Higher Education, and whose leadership style will actively engage the PLU community in thoughtful discourse about its future.
  • A dynamic communicator, who champions PLU to internal and external audiences and is capable of nurturing substantive relationships with donors, congregations and generations of alumni.
  • An effective fundraiser, who is able to generate increased resources and advance PLU’s positive philanthropic culture.
  • A trustworthy collaborator, who cultivates a shared and compelling vision and partners in developing a realistic strategic plan for the university that is systematic and data-informed.
  • A decisive administrator, who understands the changing landscape of higher education, particularly for small, private liberal arts institutions, is able to anticipate and articulate the critical issues, opportunities and challenges in the foreseeable future and is willing to make the difficult decisions that are in the best interests of the institution.
  • Participates as a leader in the management of the academic enterprise, listening to all stakeholders and demonstrating an understanding of the people and issues involved.
  • Appreciates and understands the value of building motivated, high- performing teams and is skilled at inspiring others to embrace change; understands what motivates different people; has the ability to recruit and retain talent and values the role of mentors.
  • Delegates effectively while maintaining focus on strategy and goals.
  • Understands the nuances of higher education administration; is knowledgeable about the major issues facing private comprehensive universities, including the intricacies of enrollment management, shared governance, creative program development, sustainability, new technologies, and the best academic and administrative practices.
  • Manages a complex organization measuring success with well-defined metrics.
  • Negotiates skillfully to achieve a fair outcome or promote a common cause and works to productively resolve conflict.
  • Draws on financial management experience or relevant training, with a willingness to consider creative financial modeling that will strengthen PLU’s sense of community in a climate of finite resources.
  • Shows appreciation for and recognizes the work of faculty, staff and other administrators.
  • Advocates for compliance with institutional and external regulations.
  • Demonstrates a passionate commitment to PLU’s mission.
  • Articulates a clear vision for advancing the mission and values of PLU.
  • Champions access and support services for underrepresented populations and advances gender equity and the diversity of faculty.
  • Understands, advocates and supports PLU’s commitment to teaching, research and service to the community.
  • Acts with honor and integrity of the highest order, both personally and professionally.
  • Exhibits authenticity, warmth, optimism and a sense of humor.
  • Fosters and supports change and innovation.
  • Demonstrates the courage to act on convictions, and welcomes accountability for such acts.
  • Engenders trust, honesty and hope in others by their actions.
  • Communicates transparently, naturally, frequently and effectively.
  • Advocates for the centrality of the liberal arts in all programs of study.
  • Demonstrates intercultural competence and global perspective; is committed to diversity in its many forms and comfortable articulating, promoting and celebrating it.
  • Exhibits self-awareness, humility and empathy in her/his interactions with others.
  • Develops and sustains open and collaborative relationships with faculty and professionals in the broader local, regional and national communities.
  • Supports and respects the strong culture of faculty-shared governance at PLU by working closely and collaboratively with faculty leadership to sustain and strengthen existing structures and procedures; works in consultation with faculty on key institutional, academic and curricular decisions.
  • Engages amiably with students, faculty and staff on campus; is a familiar and visible presence on campus.
  • Exhibits the ability to build productive relationships with a wide variety of stakeholders.
  • Works effectively with alumni, donors and others who are interested in supporting PLU.
  • Demonstrates sensitivity to the culture, needs and aspirations of the of the surrounding community.

The President must have a record of leadership accomplishments, such as progressive higher education administration or executive leadership experience, and proven management capability.

Candidates from non-academic sectors, who have non-traditional but comparable skill sets, will be fully considered.

Candidates who have an earned doctorate, or terminal degree, with uniquely transferrable experience and a record of scholarly publications are preferred.

Compensation arrangements are competitive and commensurate with both experience and achievement.

PLU is an Equal Opportunity/ Affirmative Action Employer committed to fostering a diverse, equitable, and family-friendly environment in which all faculty and staff can excel and achieve work-life balance irrespective of, race, national origin, age, genetic or family health history, gender, faith, gender identity and expression as well as sexual orientation. PLU also encourages applications from veterans and individuals with disabilities.

Applications should include 1) a curriculum vitae and 2) a letter of interest that addresses the responsibilities and requirements described above, as well as the applicant’s motivation to apply.

To ensure full consideration, inquiries, nominations, and applications should be submitted electronically, in confidence, to: PLU-President@kornferry.com.

The Opportunity

The University seeks a visionary, dynamic and entrepreneurial leader with a strong commitment to excellence in higher education, demonstrated administrative skills in managing a complex organization, and the ability to work with the Board of Regents to guide the institution to the next level of distinction. The successful candidate will have a strong understanding of and commitment to Lutheran Higher Education and an ability to articulate the way in which PLU is unique in how it puts those values into practice through excellent teaching, research/scholarship/ creative activities, community service and engagement.

The President of PLU must have a record demonstrating commitment to maintaining a robust system of shared governance, and to advancing diversity in all its forms and attitudes within institutions. An appreciation for the role of the University in the community, willingness to continue developing connections in the region, and the capacity to attract financial support from the public and private sectors will be essential.

As the chief representative of the University to a wide variety of external constituencies, the President must have excellent communication and interpersonal skills and an ability to connect with a variety of groups. The President must be a decisive leader who embodies integrity, is responsive, collaborative, creative, and has a passion for excellence.

The next president will be (or will become) a member of a Lutheran congregation, or of a denomination in full communion with the ELCA: Presbyterian Church [USA], Reformed Church in America, United Church of Christ, The Episcopal Church, The Moravian Church, and The United Methodist Church.

Presidential Search


A graphical illustration of the timeline of the Presidential Search at PLU