Katherine Lavinder, the interim dean of students, has been officially named dean of students for Lehigh University, effective June 1st, 2017. The announcement came at the conclusion of a months-long national search process that was headed up by Aaron Sterba, clinical director and assistant director of Lehigh’s Counseling and Psychological Services.
Sterba said that the selection committee was “truly impressed by Katherine throughout the interview process,” and that her “admirable service to the university in the role of interim dean over the last year further solidified the committee’s confidence that she is the right person to lead this office into the future. Her depth of knowledge, her creative insights and her personable demeanor were clear indications to the committee, and to the larger campus community, of how ideal a fit she is for this role.”
Ian Birky, director of Lehigh’s Counseling and Psychological Services who served as interim vice provost for Student Affairs this past academic year, said, “Katherine is highly respected by her colleagues and peers for her thoughtful and reflective style, capacity to listen and facilitate and to make and carry through with the tough decisions sometimes necessary to educate, challenge and keep our students safe.”
“She is known for her ability to collaborate and work towards solutions that honor the needs of all participants, and it is evident that her staff feel both cared for, championed and protected by her as they carry out the very important work they do here at Lehigh for our students,” he added.
Incoming Provost for Student Affairs Ricardo Hall – who will officially begin his tenure at Lehigh on June 30th – expressed confidence that Lavinder “will be an exceptional dean of students.”
From their earliest conversations, Hall said, “it was clear that she is in tune with the current and looming issues that affect Lehigh students, as well as the broad and specific challenges facing students on campuses throughout the country. Katherine's knowledge, experience, temperament -- and even what I've quickly found to be a good sense of humor -- will serve her and the Lehigh community well as we embark upon an exciting and unprecedented period of growth and transformation. I am excited to have Katherine serve in such an important leadership role within the Student Affairs division and I look forward to working with her.”
Donald Outing, Lehigh’s first vice president for equity and community, says he joins with his colleagues in celebrating Lavinder’s appointment. “It’s important,” he said, “that the person who serves as dean of students understands and values the importance of diversity, inclusion and equity as a university priority. It was clear during the interview process that Katherine possesses this quality.
Lavinder said she is “thrilled to step into the dean of students role and serve alongside an exceptionally talented staff in this exciting time and growth of change at Lehigh.
“I’m very grateful for the time I’ve spent here at Lehigh and the ways in which I’ve been able to collaborate with students, faculty and staff. I look forward to the challenges ahead.”
Lavinder has been serving as interim dean of students from July 2016, where she reported directly to Interim Vice Provost Birky and managed the dean of students organization during a period of significant transition. In that role, she provided leadership for 13 departments that included 45 professional staff and 16 administrative staff.
Departments under her supervision included academic life and student transitions, center for academic success, community service and civic engagement, disability support services, first year experience, residence life, fraternity and sorority affairs, student conduct and community expectations, gender violence education and support, student activities, student leadership development, student center facilities and operations, student affairs assessment, student life curriculum and staff development and student support and case management services.
Lavinder also advises the university’s undergraduate Student Senate and the Council of Student Presidents, an organization comprised of the leaders of 17 major student organizations.
Lavinder came to Lehigh in 2011 as associate dean of students, with primary responsibility for the areas of academic support services. Prior to her role at Lehigh, she served as special assistant to the vice president for student affairs and director of residence life at Radford University. At that institution, she also supervised the disability resource office and the office of substance abuse and violence education services, and was chair of Radford’s s behavioral consultation team.
She is a graduate of James Madison University, where she earned a B.A. in speech communications, and the University of Georgia, where she earned her M.Ed. in college student affairs administration.