Dr. Jane Wood

For just the tenth time in its 119-year history, Bluffton University has named a new president, with Dr. Jane Wood accepting the call to serve beginning July 1, 2018. 

Dr. Wood explained she was drawn to Bluffton for its longstanding reputation of excellence in both academics and athletics, and its ongoing momentum in creating “a different kind of Christian college” during her formal introduction to the campus community on March 19. 

“Bluffton’s mission, shaped by the historic peace church and nourished by a desire for excellence in all phases of its programs, called to me as my own life and career also have been defined by seeking to provide all students, but especially first generation students, with a solid educational foundation from which to spring into responsible citizenship and lives of service,” said Dr. Wood.

“The Bluffton mission, along with the visible passion and commitment that the faculty, staff and students conveyed when I first visited the campus and the Village of Bluffton, provides a strong platform for continued growth and a vibrant future for the university.” 

Dr. Wood currently serves as the vice president of academic affairs and dean at Mount Marty College, a Benedictine liberal arts and co-educational institution in Yankton, S.D. Her experience in higher education includes positions as a tenured faculty member, department chair, academic dean and vice president. Dr. Wood earned her doctoral and  master’s degrees in English literature from the University of Kansas and a bachelor’s degree in English literature from the University of Missouri.

In naming Dr. Wood president-elect, Kent Yoder ’78, chairperson of the Bluffton University Board of Trustees, pointed to Dr. Wood’s demonstrated success in achieving enrollment growth “at previous institutions through academic program innovation, strategic planning, alignment and visioning processes that moved those institutions forward.”

Adding, “She is a committed Christian with leadership experience at both Catholic and Protestant institutions and has a passion for social justice. We are excited that she was drawn to Bluffton for its mission, history and faith tradition rooted in peace and social justice. The Board is united in agreement that Dr. Jane Wood is the right person for this time in Bluffton’s history.”

As Bluffton’s next leader, Dr. Wood outlined three opportunities she looks forward to exploring. 

First, Dr. Wood wants to build on the work of President James Harder and the presidents who preceded him in affirming the value proposition of the small Christian university.

“The mission and core values of the institution: discovery, community, respect and service should be continually embraced and then demonstrated by each generation of students,” said Dr. Wood.

Second, she’s interested in Bluffton’s potential future role in shaping the way students and the wider community integrate “disruptive technology.”

“As many leaders in higher education have shared, we are indeed preparing students now for careers that have not yet been invented,” said Dr. Wood. “Not since the invention of the printing press has the world been as disrupted as it has been by the arrival of the internet. What Bluffton University can offer is new way to incorporate and shape potentially disruptive technology for the common good.”

And finally, she looks forward to exploring the enduring questions of our time, with the directive to do so imprinted on the Bluffton seal: The Truth Makes Free.

“Each generation of students needs to recognize and address the social justice or injustice of its time,” said Dr. Wood. “Bluffton University can continue to differentiate itself and foster its identity through the ongoing search for peace and justice in a world that currently appears to be sorely lacking in civil discourse and meaningful compromise.”

Bluffton’s presidential search process was led by Cheryl Hacker ’81, vice chair of the Board of Trustees. The Search Committee included board members, faculty, staff, a student, a community member, the president of the Bluffton University Alumni Association, a representative from Mennonite Education Agency and alumni representatives from the Ohio Conference and the Central District Conference of Mennonite Church USA. The committee began their work in September and received more than 50 applications for the presidency.

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