Wake Forest University has appointed Dr. Penny Rue as vice president for campus life. Rue, who currently serves as vice chancellor for student affairs at the University of California San Diego (UC San Diego), is nationally known for her creative leadership in strengthening campus communities.
Rue will oversee most facets of student life with broad responsibility for the well-being and safety of students and their engagement outside the classroom. The departments she will supervise include: Residence Life and Housing, Student Services, Campus Life, Campus Recreation, Student Health Service, the Office of the Chaplain and University Police.
She will assume her new duties mid-July.
“I have a passion for creating a compelling student experience,” said Rue. “At Wake Forest, the high degree of student contact, the teacher-scholar model, the focus on service and the common good, the emphasis on student well-being — all of these are appealing elements. I’ve never seen such collective dedication to providing a truly enriching educational experience.”
Since 2007, Rue has served in her current role at (UC San Diego) and has focused on enhancing the sense of community, advancing student health, safety and wellbeing, and promoting diversity, equity and inclusion.
“This is an exciting appointment in the life of the University,” said President Nathan Hatch. “Dr. Rue’s tremendous depth of experience and her talent for building community make her an excellent fit for Wake Forest. And, her leadership in the area of wellness dovetails perfectly with Wake Forest’s increased focus on student well-being.”
Rue has been an innovator in the area of wellness. In 2009, she created an Office of Student Wellness, which oversees Student Health Services, Counseling and Psychological Services, the Sexual Assault Resource Center, Campus Recreation and the Wellness Center. In the student center, she set up “The Zone,” a lounge for student well-being that includes cooking classes, relaxation techniques and contacts for the rest of the offices in the Wellness group.
Rue previously served for eight years as dean of students at the University of Virginia. She served for five years as senior associate dean of students at Georgetown University and for seven years as Georgetown’s director of student programs. Earlier in her career she held student life positions at The University of Maryland and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
A search committee co-chaired by President Hatch and Provost Rogan Kersh and composed of faculty, administrators and a student representative recommended Rue’s appointment. She will succeed Ken Zick, vice president of student life and instructional resources. Last year, Zick announced his plans to step down on June 30 from the vice president of student life position, after 25 years in that role. He plans to return to teaching following a year’s leave.
“I am immensely grateful for the work of the search committee in finding an exceptionally well-qualified person to succeed Ken Zick,” Kersh said. “I deeply admire Dr. Rue’s work in program development and her gift for mentoring students. I look forward to working with her as a creative partner in weaving together the academic and extracurricular aspects of campus life.”
In each of her previous roles, Rue has made it a priority to personally connect with students.
“I’ll look forward to attending programs and events and to meeting with individuals and groups of students to help them turn their dreams into reality,” Rue said.
Jim O’Connell, a Wake Forest senior and the student trustee, served as a member of the search committee. “Dr. Rue is clearly more than qualified professionally, but what I found special is her genuine interest in undergraduates,” he said. “She strikes me as a truly caring individual who is ready to work with students on an array of campus life issues.”
Rue earned her doctorate in counseling and personnel services from the University of Maryland, where her dissertation research focused on building community on college campuses. She also earned a master’s degree in student personnel services from The Ohio State University and a bachelor’s degree in English and religion from Duke University.
From crisis response to the role of family involvement in students’ success, Rue has regularly addressed important student life issues at national conferences for NASPA-Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education and other professional groups. She was named a “Pillar of the Profession” by the NASPA Foundation.
Rue currently teaches in the San Diego State University graduate program in student affairs and has also taught “College Student Development” at the University of Virginia and “Contemporary Issues in Leadership for Women” at Georgetown.
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