On April 26, 2021, Krista L. Newkirk announced that she will be stepping down as President of Converse College, effective July 5, 2021. She has served as the 10th President of Converse College since July 1, 2016. President Newkirk is leaving Converse to become the 12th President of the University of Redlands in Redlands, California.

President Newkirk’s leadership and innovation has led Converse from a regional single-gender college to an internationally recognized co-educational university.  With the work that has been done and the achievements of the last five years, the College has positive momentum and a strong foundation for the academic advancement and organizational strength of Converse for both today and for future generations.

Read President Newkirk’s official announcement here.

Next Steps

A nationwide search for the next President of Converse University will begin soon. It will be an inclusive process conducted by a search committee to be named. The Converse Board of Trustees Chair Sandra Shearouse Morelli ’78 and the Converse Board of Trustees has appointed a search committee. The committee includes representatives from the Converse Board of Trustees, Converse students, faculty, staff, and alumni, as well as community members.

June 2, 2021 update

The Presidential Search Committee Chairs Kim Kent ’97 and Laura Bauknight ’87 would like to share that 13 committee members have been appointed to help with the search for Converse’s next president. The committee members are comprised of current and former Converse Board of Trustees members, alumni, faculty, staff, and students. In addition to the 13 committee members, 3 additional members have been appointed to serve as ex officio members of the committee.

2021-22 Presidential Search Committee members


  • Randall Chambers
  • Phyllis Perrin Harris ‘82
  • Ken Howard (Life Trustee)
  • Karla Jones ‘85
  • Wallace Prestwood ‘89
  • Linda Layman Redding ‘88

Faculty, staff, and students

  • Boone Hopkins, Interim Provost for 2021-2023
  • Mike Kennedy, Assistant Vice President for Philanthropy
  • Randy Loggins, Deputy Director of Athletics
  • Karen Mims, Student Government Association President, ‘22
  • Margaret Moore, Faculty Senate President and Associate Professor of Physical Education

Ex officio

  • Sandra Shearouse Morelli ’78, Converse Board of Trustees Chair
  • Jeff Barker, Converse University President (effective July 6, 2021)
  • Pamela Greenway, Senior Executive Assistant to the President and Assistant Secretary to the Board of Trustees

An important next step over the next month is for the Presidential Search Chairs and Committee to hire a search firm to assist with the hiring process, with the goal to retain a firm by the end of July

May 1, 2021 update

Kimberly Varnadoe Kent ’97 and Laura Chappell Bauknight ’87 will serve as co-chairs of our 2021-22 Presidential Search Committee. The next step in the process will be selecting a search consultant. 

Presidential Search Communications

From Provost Barker, appointed as Converse President during the 2021-2022 academic year, to the Converse Community (April 26, 2021)

Dear Converse Community:

Thank you for your continuing support of Converse.

I want to thank President Newkirk for her years of leadership. She has had the courage and conviction to lead us through dramatic changes that have made us a stronger institution. Congratulations to her on her wonderful new opportunity in California!

Sometimes people say that serving as president of a university during the search for the next president is all about keeping the wheels on the bus. That’s vital but it’s not enough. We also need to keep the bus moving forward in the right direction. Of course, keeping things moving forward means focusing on the full implementation of the Model Change, welcoming all of our new students and working with Dean Chandra Hopkins and the entire community on the implementation of the Women’s College within the university.

Moving forward also means:

  • Continuing to develop and improve our academic programs and student life;
  • Focusing tightly on undergraduate enrollment, both in recruiting new students and retaining our current students;
  • Maintaining our momentum in fundraising;
  • Continuing to control expenditures; and
  • Building on our efforts and plans in diversity and inclusion.

These are areas where we have made substantial improvements in the past five years and where we need to continue to improve. 

Our budgets will continue to be planned and monitored very carefully. Even with projected first year enrollment this fall, every tuition dollar is spoken for in our budget for the coming year, in part because we have budgeted to support the growth that we’ve seen and the growth that is coming. With all that we’ve done and are doing, however, if we keep things going in the right direction, we will have more resources in the future to make our university an even stronger place. 

Our marketing consultants found out that almost everyone had the same answer when asked what is most important here—the education of our students. When you begin with that premise and when you have had the advantage of the excellent leadership of Krista Newkirk and the very strong administrative team she has built, plus the support of our faculty, staff, and students, our positive position is a welcome result. 

It wasn’t inevitable. Success takes deliberate, systematic planning, focused implementation of plans, ongoing support from donors, and a commitment to mission from every part of the community. On all of these counts, Converse is in a good place. My task in the coming year is to help us stay on track and moving forward. I will need the entire community’s help—from all of you—and I thank you in advance for that help.

Best regards,

Jeff Barker

See COVID-19 campus updates, office hours and resources  COVID-19 Updates >