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Jeremy Schenk named special assistant for graduation transition

Two-year role will oversee changes to commencement, convocations calendars

Jeremy Schenk, executive director of Norris University Center, has been named to a new position as Northwestern University’s special assistant for graduation transition to oversee changes coming to the commencement and convocation calendars.

University Registrar Jaci Casazza and Interim Vice President for Student Affairs Julie Payne-Kirchmeier announced the appointment today (Oct. 31, 2019). Schenk will report to them in their capacities as co-chairs of the Graduation Transition Steering Committee.

Schenk accepted the two-year role to oversee the adjustments to the graduation calendar and other important ceremonies and events traditionally held during Senior Week, as well as end-of-year processes affected by the revised timeline. During that time, he will continue to serve in his Norris role.

“I’m thrilled that Jeremy is taking on this role,” Casazza said. “It’s a big job, but having led large organizational changes and planned commencement, his experience will be invaluable.

“Jeremy’s ability to put people at ease, to listen and to propose creative compromises will ensure that the graduation transition process will be collaborative, transparent, inclusive and thoughtfully planned,” she said.

On Oct .17, President Morton Schapiro and Provost Jonathan Holloway announced they had approved a Faculty Senate recommendation to lengthen spring break, consider institutionalized final exam flexibility and hold commencement closer to the end of spring quarter. Beginning with this upcoming spring 2020, spring quarter and Pritzker Law School spring semester will start routinely on a Tuesday to afford two full weekends during spring break. For 2020, that means spring break continues through Monday, March 30, and spring classes start Tuesday, March 31. 

The President and Provost also announced that in June 2021, Northwestern will celebrate graduation with the Class of 2021 on June 13 and 14, the Sunday and Monday immediately following final exams. 

In his new role, Schenk will work with a project manager who will oversee details, but his principal mission will be to:

  • Coordinate with schools and units on the impact of these changes to budget planning
  • Gather input and feedback from students, schools, major units, faculty and staff to ensure all perspectives are considered in the planning
  • Form a number of working groups, each focused on a particular set of issues, such as rescheduling Senior Week events and planning for changes to the academic year-end processes

Schenk is a student-centered leader with almost 20 years of experience at diverse institutions.

“I am honored to serve as the special assistant for graduation transition for the 2021 commencement and convocation ceremonies,” Schenk said. “I look forward to collaborating with partners across campus as we transition to a new graduation weekend schedule, while continuing to provide a deeply meaningful experience for our students.”

Schenk has led significant organizational change initiatives at a departmental, institutional and professional association level. He is a proven communicator who has worked with a variety of higher education stakeholders: students, families, staff, faculty, administrators, alumni and community partners.

He served as co-chair of Northwestern’s 2019 commencement, and he has served on the food service transition team. He also served on the design development team for the University Commons.

In addition, Schenk has presented regionally and nationally on organizational change and transition management issues.