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Susan M. Davis named vice president for Student Affairs

Davis, the senior associate vice president for Student Affairs at the University of Virginia, has 23 years of experience in higher education and law

Susan M. Davis has been named Northwestern University’s vice president for Student Affairs, President Michael Schill announced today. Davis will join Northwestern on April 1.

Davis, the senior associate vice president for Student Affairs at the University of Virginia (UVA), has 23 years of experience in law and higher education. She oversees student health and wellness, student safety and support, judicial affairs and research on the student experience.

“I am thrilled to welcome Susan as our next vice president for Student Affairs, a role that is vital to our University community,” Schill said. “She brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the role and is a compassionate leader who has demonstrated the ability to elevate the student experience.”

Davis emerged from a national search of candidates conducted by a committee representing Northwestern students, faculty and staff. The committee was chaired by Miriam Gamoran Sherin, associate provost for undergraduate education, and Kelly Mayo, dean of The Graduate School and associate provost for graduate education.

“I am delighted to welcome Susan to Northwestern,” said Sherin, who is the associate provost for undergraduate education and the Alice Gabrielle Twight Professor of Learning Sciences in the School of Education and Social Policy. “She will advance key priorities in Student Affairs, and I look forward to partnering with her to enhance the entire undergraduate experience for our students.” 

Mayo said he is excited to welcome Davis to Northwestern and is looking forward to her leadership of Student Affairs. 

“Susan brings a vast set of experiences that will support and enhance our community of students, including a substantial and successful background working with graduate as well as undergraduate students,” said Mayo, who is dean of The Graduate School, associate provost for graduate education and the Walter and Jennie Bayne Professor of Molecular Biosciences in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

Davis will succeed Julie Payne-Kirchmeier, who departed last summer to become vice president for student success for the Indiana University system. Patricia Lampkin, who has led Student Affairs on an interim basis since Aug. 1, 2022, will continue in the role through March.

“I have long admired Northwestern for its commitment to interdisciplinary study, ground-breaking research and strong sense of community,” Davis said. “I see in Northwestern a place where the leadership team is committed to important values in student affairs that deeply resonate with me: diversity, equity and inclusion, student engagement and belonging, health and wellness, and team development.”

Davis joined UVA in 1999, serving first as associate general counsel and special assistant attorney general in the Office of University Counsel. From 1999 to 2004, she represented UVA in numerous federal and state court actions involving constitutional law and civil rights. In 2004, she moved to the Division of Student Affairs and has held numerous administrative positions since then.

In her broad work supporting the student experience, Davis has been involved with connecting institutional data to support research and a better understanding of emerging trends in young adults, crisis and care intervention, and legal and policy issues that intersect with student life.

“Working with students and student affairs professionals has been the great joy of my career,” Davis said. “I have gained some of my best insight from students. And I have long believed that student affairs professionals are the best humans I know; they see across the institution and serve as the architects for creating a vibrant and welcoming university community. I am eager to get to know the University and the Student Affairs team and to embark on this new adventure with them.”

As senior associate vice president for Student Affairs at UVA since 2021, Davis has helped set strategic and operational goals; she has managed an integrated student health and wellness center with 180 employees operating out of a new 160,000 square foot facility with a $22 million annual budget; and she has guided key units, including medical services, counseling and psychological services, a student disabilities access center and health promotion. 

Davis has been responsible for a student safety team, including a 24/7 dean-on-call response system, coordination of care with clinical providers and appropriate information sharing with UVA partners.

In addition, she has overseen a judicial affairs team, providing advice and counsel to student-run honor and judiciary committees, and managed research on the UVA student experience, co-building a research database linking student demographic, health, academic, incident and involvement data from 2009 to present.

Davis holds her juris doctor degree from the Temple University School of Law. As an undergraduate, she studied at Dartmouth College where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Spanish. She and her husband, Matt, have two daughters.

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Susan M. Davis, incoming vice president for Student Affairs
Susan M. Davis, incoming vice president for Student Affairs