News & Announcements

Associate Vice President for Student Success: Whitney R. Harris

At Garrett, serving students’ needs is our top priority. We are therefore excited to announce Whitney R. Harris as our Associate Vice President for Student Success! Previously, Harris served as the inaugural Director of Advising at Drake University after holding two academic advising positions at Northern Illinois University (NIU) and the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).  She started her higher education journey as an athletic academic coordinator following a  career in sports medicine.  This new position is outward and inward facing: Harris will work with current and prospective students to customize education plans and also create systems to clearly communicate the seminary’s educational policy, process and procedures. “I’m so excited to assess the needs of both masters and doctoral students, to build infrastructure that supports those needs,” Harris says.

In this newly created position, Whitney will serve as the primary strategist for developing cross-campus approaches to ensure the integration and excellence of the student experience at the intersections of academic success and student life. Her charge is to develop and manage comprehensive best practices to support academic excellence that calibrates to the incredible diversity of Garrett students, including their diverse educational contexts (in residence, commuter, and remote students; as well as domestic U.S. and international students) and across our various degree programs. She will work closely with Dean Harvey to develop policies and professional development approaches necessary for staff and faculty to support best practices, ensuring that cohesion and integration mark the entirety of Garrett’s student experience.

Whitney brings a unique perspective and incredible set of skills to our work with students—both directly and in the systems we need to build to support them,” Academic Dean Jen Harvey affirms. “She is a brilliant strategist, with energy and kindness in abundance.” The position of Associate Vice President for Student Success is intentionally interconnective, designed to integrate the programs Garrett already has in place, while simultaneously determining new initiatives to fill in any gaps. “Whitney will serve as a catalyst for student success, which is at the heart of our mission,” explains President Javier Viera. “Her expertise in creating systems to holistically strengthen student learning and student thriving will help us to better fulfill our mission. I can’t wait to welcome Whitney to Garrett and for the Garrett community to benefit from her wisdom and energy.”

Warm and welcoming, Harris’ passion for working with students is readily apparent. “I love digging into who they are, what they bring to the table, and what they want out of the institution and their educational experience,” she says. “It’s a holistic approach, seeing the student as a human being with needs, desires, challenges, fears, and expertise. That’s why I’m passionate about finding an approach that works for them.” Part of Harris’ role will be to work with the admissions department, helping to onboard incoming students, creating clear and concise steps for them to pursue a Garrett education. The other half will be helping students complete their degree programs, from start to finish.

Many people exude Harris’ interpersonal kindness, but few match her passion for creating educational infrastructure. “Masters and doctoral students have enough to deal with,” she laughs. “Often times, They may be working full time or career shifting or balancing work and family life. Our systems should never be a barrier to them accessing their education.” Ultimately, this blend of sensitivity and analytical thinking is what so excites the Office of Academic Affairs. “Empathy, compassion, and grace. Those are my big three,” she says. “But I’m always going to have a solid system to back that up.” Already, wheels are turning in the Department of Academic Affairs, dreams about what this appointment will facilitate. “Garrett students and her new colleagues are going to immediately understand why I was thrilled to bring her on board,” Dean Harvey concludes with a smile.