Vice President, Academic Operations

Salt Lake City, Utah
Competitive with a rich benefits package
Sep 12, 2017
Executive Administration Jobs
Vice Presidents
Institution Type
Four-Year Institution



Reporting to the Provost & Chief Academic Officer, the leader in this role ensures alignment of student life cycle management and academic staffing and development operations across the University to attain and continually optimize student success and outcomes. Highly dedicated to student learning, this individual will operate as both an academic and business leader, inspiring and managing a team of college-level leaders who are directly responsible and accountable for achieving college-specific student success outcomes and related academic operations goals. These include enrollment, student progress, retention, graduation rates and student satisfaction.

The VP of Academic Operations will be a visionary and key counsel to the Provost. The position will guide long-range planning; oversee the student lifecycle and academic staffing budget; engineer supporting policies and procedures, drive the development of innovative faculty development programs and student lifecycle management initiatives; direct the implementation of student services across the WGU programming experience including industry-relevant career advancement services, veteran’s services, special populations services and financial aid functions, and oversee all required state and federal reporting.

Shaping long-term vision, strategic initiatives and operating priorities, the position will also work closely with the VP of Academic Programs in developing and executing plans to enhance the holistic design, delivery and continuous improvement of WGU’s academic programming portfolio.

The VP of Academic Operations will be directly responsible for recruiting and developing highly talented individuals and people leaders and will have the credentials sufficient to secure the respect of the academic community.



  • Define strategy and execute key initiatives to increase student success and outcomes including on-time progress, quality learning delivery, retention, graduation rate and student satisfaction.
  • Provide leadership and oversight of academic and student lifecycle operations and learning to implement continuous improvement efforts, formulate measurable goals and outcomes, and evaluate ongoing performance.
  • Lead strategic and operating planning to set operational goals (by college), and synthesize the multiple possible initiatives into a prioritized plan with related dependencies, metrics, and committed goals.
  • Scale and continually advance or re-invent the student journey and experience.
  • Partner closely with Vice President Academic Programs to define academic quality and impact student results.
  • Collaborate with academic and administrative leadership, faculty and team leaders across the university to serve students.
  • Establish ambitious and achievable academic goals. Manage and deliver operational outcomes based on strategic WGU priorities.
  • Increase quality of academic delivery for better student outcomes.
  • Develop and earn trust of peer leaders in measuring performance, diagnosing root causes, and devising action plans to address gaps or further improve performance.
  • Drive innovative advancements of competency-based education, student experience, faculty engagement, and technology-enabled learning.
  • Work collaboratively and effectively with leadership team to define, plan for, and realize a bold future for the University.
  • Be an inspiring and motivational leader for individuals at all levels, and in all functions of the University. Continually draw talent to WGU. Develop and recruit top talent and future leaders. Invest in people to be at the forefront of academic quality deliverables and student learning.
  • Provide leadership and support for faculty, enrollment, evaluation and student services, making decisions regarding allocation of resources to enhance academic quality, ensuring quality of delivery and evaluation of students, enhancing our distinctive student learning experience.
  • Authentically reflect and portray the mission of WGU. Be a reliable spokesperson for student success, innovation, and competency-based education.


Required Skills:

  • The successful VP Academic Operations is an experienced operational and academic leader. This leader will have a track record of achieving aggressive goals in the areas of student lifecycle management and faculty development. The successful VP in this role will have authority and ownership developed through demonstrated mastery of the University priorities and processes, and command of the operational model and priority goals. The VP Academic Operations understands and successfully leads the review of metrics, data and analysis at all layers of operations. This leader has the ability to lead the data-driven development, implementation, and continuous improvement and optimization of the community of care that will drive ever more positive student outcomes across the learner journey, while maintaining the academic integrity, performance and reputation of the programs. S/he effectively engages senior leaders, and is probing, open-minded, data-driven, and solution-oriented. S/he will also be comfortable with ambiguity, willing to experiment, make decisions and commit resources with less than perfect information. Must be able to clearly articulate WGU’s purpose, mission, vision and goals, and able to motivate others to achieve those goals and be enthusiastically accepted as a leader. These qualities are driven by the following competencies:
  • Student focus – always keeps the student at the center of what we do, and why we do it. Makes decisions and guides efforts to improve and expand value for students and employers. Demonstrated and documented track record of measuring and improving academic quality, student and institutional success.
  • Execution and Results oriented – focused on results, not just activity. Exceptional skill and demonstrated success in delivering and improving results in a higher education senior leadership role. Strong bias for, and practical experience in, measuring and improving performance metrics.
  • Ownership – willing to operate and execute priorities, especially absent direct hierarchical management authority; P&L owner mindset, with clear ownership of performance outcomes and related ROI.
  • Managerial courage – willing to tackle difficult topics and conventional thinking; doesn’t hold anything back that needs to be said.
  • Strategic thinking – applies broad strategic direction, with university-wide impact, and in a distributed organization context.
  • Inquisitive, analytical thinker – a data-driven thinker, who effectively diagnoses root causes, and identifies primary drivers of performance outcomes. Obsesses about controllable inputs, and defines and prioritizes activities to change them for the positive.
  • Develops and earns trust – works effectively across functions, internalizing their motivations and priorities, and energizing others’ engagement in devising solutions and driving execution; a personal style that favors inquiry over advocacy, listening over speaking.
  • Thinks big / innovation – formulates a bold vision, sees around corners, and inspires results. Fosters creative thinking, and brings innovation successfully to market. Experience in entrepreneurial business operations experiencing rapid growth.
  • Team and individual development – defines success in terms of the whole team; creates a feeling of belonging; hires and develops top talent and future WGU leaders.
  • Clear, effective communicator – exceptional and persuasive communication skills, oral and written, in addressing internal and external audiences, especially in operation reviews; is vocally self-critical, and exudes ownership in engagement style.
  • Great judgement – deals effectively with paradox; exhibits good instincts, while willing to make tough calls, with some degree of adaptability.



Education: BS/BA minimum, Master’s or PhD preferred.

Experience: 10+ years of demonstrated leadership in successive roles of increasing scope, scale and responsibility. Strong background in successfully leading senior leaders with large distributed academic teams. Experience in higher education and academic operations highly desired.

Other: Ability to travel is required.

Location: Salt Lake City, UT. Relocation assistance is available.

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