Krista L. Newkirk, the 10th President of Converse University, served in that role from July 1, 2016, through July 5, 2021. A dynamic and visionary leader, Krista and her executive team built upon Converse’s history, mission, and reputation for academic excellence to enhance its financial, academic and cultural strength.
Under her leadership, Converse has:
- Developed an innovative strategic plan;
- Become an accredited doctorate-granting institution;
- Launched its first doctoral degree program, surpassing expectations with an initial cohort 100% larger than projected;
- Expanded its master’s degree offerings, building on 55 years of graduate programs;
- Added data analytics to its business, finance, and health care administration degree programs;
- Opened an extension campus at the University Center in Greenville, South Carolina;
- Developed degree completion programs in business and child and family studies;
- Added an autism certificate program for teachers, the first in South Carolina;
- Become just the 6th private institution of higher learning to add virtual-reality tools to the classroom;
- Welcomed its largest freshmen class (2017) in more than three decades;
- Celebrated the 50th anniversary of Converse’s enrollment of African-American students in a year-long celebration;
- Led the development of a campus Unity in Diversity Committee which conducted surveys and focus groups;
- Launched Converse’s Quality Enhancement Plan entitled, Converse Across Boundaries: Learning Through Diverse Experiences, and devoted the Creative, Community and Cultural Enrichment (C3) grants to support the plan;
- Expanded athletics to include teams for Field Hockey and Acrobatics and Tumbling, which competed at Nationals both of its first two seasons and won an individual National Title in 2019;
- Reached record levels of Annual Fund giving and other fundraising;
- Started the Valkyrie Middle College to provide a pipeline for high school students to begin course work toward an education degree and a teaching position in Spartanburg County District 7 schools;
- Replaced critical campus infrastructure systems to become safer and more energy-efficient; and
- Extensively renovated Twichell Auditorium in the newly named Zimmerli Performance Center, one of the most iconic performance venues in the South.
In addition, Krista led Converse through the thoughtful, research-driven and collaborative process that resulted in one of its most transformative decisions: to add a coeducational residential college in fall of 2020, to change its name to Converse University on July 1, 2021 and establish the Converse College for Women and its International College in the fall of 2021.
Krista spent her early years on a cattle ranch in Missouri before attending the University of Missouri’s Honor College on scholarship. After two years, Krista transferred to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she graduated one year later in 1993 in the top 5 percent of her class with a Bachelor of Arts in English and a minor in Philosophy. She went on to earn her Juris Doctor degree from the Marshall-Wythe School of Law at the College of William & Mary in 1998. While in law school, Krista served as editor-in-chief of the William & Mary Journal of Women and the Law and as a teaching assistant. She received the Marshall-Wythe Gambrell Professionalism Award and was selected the Outstanding Woman Law Graduate by the National Association of Women Lawyers. During her time in law school, Krista also served as an intern at the Newport News Commonwealth Attorney’s Office where she worked with victims and witnesses, negotiated outcomes for the Domestic Violence unit, and prosecuted cases, including felonies.
After working for several years as an attorney in both private practice and at a Fortune 300 company, Krista joined the Office of Legal Affairs at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 2003. In that role, Krista provided legal advice to the Chancellor, the Board of Trustees, and faculty and staff on a wide range of legal topics including research, technology transfer, contracts, employment and discrimination matters, intellectual property, licensing, real property, First Amendment, and student affairs matters. She managed complex litigation, including construction and employment cases, drafted contracts and policies, and served as counsel for several start-up non-profit corporations.
During her time at UNC Charlotte, Krista was selected by her peers as a Legal Elite in the corporate counsel category by Business North Carolina in 2010, was a graduate of Leadership North Carolina’s Class XIX in 2012, and served on a number of boards, including as Chair of the Education Section of the North Carolina Bar Association and on the Women + Girls Research Alliance.
In 2012, Krista became the Chief of Staff at UNC Charlotte. As Chief of Staff, Krista assisted the Chancellor in addressing the major issues confronting the University, managed large-scale projects that crossed divisions, provided coordination for the achievement of strategic goals and initiatives, ensured that analyses were completed to facilitate timely and effective decisions, developed the agendas of the Board of Trustees, and reviewed the annual budget allocations. After 13 years at UNC Charlotte, Krista left to become President of Converse College in 2016.
Regionally, Krista serves as Chair of the South Carolina Tuition and Grants Commission, as a member of the South Carolina Research Alliance Board, as a Member of the South Carolina Independent College and University Board, where she is Chair of the President’s Council, an Executive Committee Member, and a Public Policy Committee Member. Locally, she is a member of the Spartanburg Chamber of Commerce’s One Spartanburg Talent Action Team, a Member of the Chamber’s Advisory Board; Co-chair of the Education to Employment Committee; a Spartanburg Rotarian; a member of the Spartanburg Academic Movement Board; a member of the College Town Board; and a member of the globalbike Board.
Krista was honored as one of the 50 Most Influential and one of 25 Women of Influence in the Upstate of South Carolina in 2020 and was named a Woman of Achievement by the Spartanburg Herald-Journal in 2018.
Krista, and her husband, W. Lewis Glenn III, have two sons: Conrad and Holden.