BY AMANDA KEEFE
Webster University’s St. Louis campus welcomes a new member in a first-time position. Nancy Hellerud, interim dean at Hamline University, will be the new associate provost of the university. She will assume position Monday, April 18.
The initial search committee that began this past November came to an end in late February. Provost Julian Schuster said it was a unanimous decision to hire Hellerud.
“Her qualities really stood out,” Schuster said. “She was chosen based on her depth and her breadth of experiences, both academic and non-academic.”
As associate provost, Hellerud will serve as chief of staff to Schuster, among several other duties.
“She’ll become his right-hand person,” said Beth Russell, associate vice president of academic affairs, and a member of the search committee. “She’ll be a critical member of the leadership team.”
Schuster said the aim of the associate provost position is to provide more integration in the area of internal operations.
“She will simply enhance the capacity of the office to fulfill our mission and maintain better connections and improve communication,” Schuster said.
Russell said that, among Hellerud’s many duties, she will help strengthen relationships among constituents, she’ll work with the provost to formulate strategic and operational planning and she’ll help manage communications within and outside of the provost office.
“I’ll help move forward the initiatives that are in the provost office,” Hellerud said. “I’ll consider upcoming projects, asking, ‘How do we implement them? Fund them? Make it happen?’ then communicate it to students.”
Schuster and the committee found Hellerud more than qualified for the job — she has worked abroad in Costa Rica, has previous experience in a field outside of education (law) and has not only acted as dean but as a professor too.
“I’ve been on the other side as faculty,” Hellerud said. “I’ve experienced what happens when you have good resources, and when everything flows right. Even though I’ll be an administrator, I’m able to put myself in a faculty position — to be able to look at whatever the new project or idea might be through the eyes of what a prospective student would think.”
Though Hellerud said her life’s work is education, she didn’t always want it as her career. Growing up with two parents who were teachers, she swore it was the last career she’d pursue.
She practiced law instead, working as a lawyer in legal aid in Minnesota, North Dakota and Iowa. It wasn’t until her trip to Costa Rica where she’d realize her calling.
While working in legal aid, many of her clients didn’t speak English as a first language. Hellerud had the opportunity to travel abroad, and to learn Spanish. Because she couldn’t practice law in Costa Rica, she took a course on teaching a foreign language instead. She returned home, and realized education was her chosen career all along.
Not only is this Hellerud’s first time in such a position, but it’s her first time living in St. Louis. As far as what she’ll do first when she steps into her position, she said she plans on getting to know the ins and outs of Webster.
“It’s not obvious when you first reach St. Louis that Webster is a large but very integrated institution,” she said. “What are all the places behind what you can see? I’m excited to find out.”