Dr. Vinita Sauder, currently vice president for strategic initiatives at Southern Adventist University in Tennessee, has accepted the invitation of the Union College Board of Trustees to serve as Union's next president.
The appointment will fill the position soon to be vacated by John Wagner when he retires in June. Wagner joined Union College for a third time in 2011 to help complete the $14.5 million Our Promising Future campaign and build the new Krueger Center for Science and Mathematics.
Although Union College has experienced growth both in the student body and on the physical campus in the form of new and remodeled academic facilities, it was the people who attracted Sauder to the small Midwestern campus. “The personal nature of Union College and the culture of the campus is very appealing to me,” she said. “Union has a strong spirit. It is evident in the way you treat your students and the way the students lead.”
But her attraction to Union goes even deeper. “I was interested in transitioning to a presidential role on a small campus because I know what makes for a good education.” Sauder can draw from her own published research comparing outcomes in Adventist education to public universities. “It’s that personal connection available on a small campus. That doesn’t mean Union can’t grow. But what Union has now is something very special—something that some colleges lose as they grow. We need to hold on to that spirit.”
Sauder’s extensive experience in higher education began as the public relations director at Southern Adventist University (then Southern College of Seventh-day Adventists) in the early 1980s. Since then, she has taught in the School of Business and Management, served as vice president for Marketing and Enrollment Services, and now in her current role as vice president for strategic initiatives.
During her time as an administrator, she served as part of a team that positioned Southern Adventist University for substantial growth. “We developed a strategic plan,” she explained. “We developed a new way of looking at things by taking best practices from many other schools—including those outside the Adventist system—and re-engineering a lot of processes to create growth.”
During the 12 years she directly led the marketing and enrollment initiatives, Southern saw an 83 percent growth in enrollment—adding more than 1,400 students.
Sauder hopes to bring to Union similar processes and strategies to create growth. “Union has a strategic plan in place,” said Sauder. “I am looking forward to joining the administrative team to help accomplish the vision and goals that have been laid out.”
After earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Southern Adventist University in 1978, Sauder worked in public relations and as a reporter until joining the Southern staff in 1983. She later earned an MBA from the University of Tennessee Chattanooga School of Business in 1989 and then a doctorate in leadership from the Andrews University School of Education in 2008.
“Dr. Sauder understands and resonates with the Union College culture,” said Thomas L. Lemon, chair of the Union College Board of Trustees. “Her experience as both a faculty member and an administrator in Adventist higher education has prepared her for this new role, and I believe she will interface well with our current administrative team to effectively lead Union College into the future.”
Sauder and her husband, Greg, will transition to Lincoln later this summer. The parents of two grown sons, they look forward to exploring a new hometown. “We love to travel and we love small towns. Sometimes we like to just get in the car and visit a small community,” she said. “I think Lincoln will be a good fit for us. We’re looking forward to experiencing all that Union and Nebraska have to offer. I can’t wait to get involved and support the Union College team as they accomplish their goals and move to the next level.”