When Scott Hagan, Ph.D., became North Central University’s seventh president in 2017, he made a career shift from pastoral ministry to executive leadership at a university. He would often quip that he was a “freshman,” along with the incoming high-school class of 2017. At Commencement for North Central’s Class of 2021 this past spring, Hagan “graduated” with this group of students who had journeyed with him during his first four years at the university.
The president is more enthusiastic than ever to lead in the next season for North Central University. A three-year strategic plan is in place, and Hagan has a brand-new Senior Leadership Team (SLT) to partner with as they set the course for NCU’s tenth decade.
“We will be unveiling key elements of our strategic plan this Fall,” Hagan said. “A crucial part to a successful and lasting strategic plan is having the right team of leaders stewarding the plan. I have been blessed since arriving at NCU with great executive leaders who have displayed the right balance of knowledge and focus in their respective areas. They have also had the ability to bring out the best work in others on behalf of the university. Our current team is outstanding, and I fully expect them to ignite momentum and growth at NCU.”
Breadth of experience
Representing broad leadership experience in and outside of higher education, here are the Vice Presidents (VP) and Associate Vice Presidents (AVP) who will serve on the SLT with President Hagan:
Pictured above, top row, left to right:
Vice President of Business and Operations: Tim Hager, D.Min.
Vice President of Enrollment and Student Development: Bethany Harshbarger ’11
Vice President of Academic Affairs: Jason Wenschlag, Ed.D.
Pictured above, bottom row, left to right:
Associate Vice President of Spiritual Life and Dean of Multicultural Engagement: Joshua Edmon, M.A.
Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs: Desirée Libengood ’05, Ed.D.
Associate Vice President of Student Life and Dean of Students: Jeremy Williamson ’07, M.A.
As the most recently appointed SLT member, VP Jason Wenschlag, Ed.D. (Academic Affairs), comes to NCU with a wide variety of experience in education and a passion for North Central’s mission. Wenschlag oversees the faculty and staff who create and maintain the academic experience at NCU.
Wenschlag sees God at work for the coming year: “With the strategic plan as a catalyst, a mindset of continuous improvement and a desire to become our ‘better selves’ will lead to innovative programming that inspires people and reflects God’s leading and the rich culture of this school. Engaging in this work will allow God to reveal opportunities we have probably never considered!”
Supporting faculty is supremely important to Wenschlag. “I encourage faculty to dream, innovate and take risks,” he said. “[I want them to] continue to refine themselves and their craft so that students are then engaged, inspired, and motivated by what we are doing and how God is working in their lives.”
AVP Desirée Libengood’s role on the SLT represents an endorsement of the importance of academic representation at the highest levels of leadership at NCU. She brings broad perspectives to the team as an alumna, faculty member, dean, and now associate vice president. “In my new role, I’ll provide oversight on HLC accreditation, institutional research, and diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in academics,” Libengood said. “I’m excited to partner with all the faculty in serving our students well through continued improvement in academics. These are key areas that will help direct our growth as an academic institution.”
Under the Lordship of Christ
AVP Joshua Edmon, M.A. (Spiritual Life), also serves as Dean of Multicultural Development and co-chair of the Diversity Action Council with AVP Libengood. Edmon is excited to help shape the spiritual climate at NCU and expand ways and places people can flourish. “Quite often, we hear our President say that he desires to see NCU ‘look like heaven,’ Edmon said. “We know that the great picture of heaven in Revelation 7:9 is every tribe, nation, and tongue lifting their voices in worship of our great God. One of the most significant opportunities for me is to work towards giving space for every tribe, nation, and tongue to be seen and have the freedom to express all of who they are under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.”
Seasoned staff bolsters operations
VP Tim Hager, D.Min. (Business & Operations), who brings extensive leadership experience in churches and the Assemblies of God, hits the ground running with a seasoned staff who know and love North Central. He is impressed by how the university navigated the challenges of the past two academic years. “The people in my area have done a phenomenal job navigating exceedingly difficult waters during the pandemic,” Hager said. “I was impressed by who they are as people (they are just great folks), their insights and expertise, their character, and commitment to NCU. As the university responds to new opportunities and discerns God’s plan and strategies in the new ‘normal,’ I’m excited to take this journey with these high-caliber individuals.”
In preparation for his new role, Hager has immersed himself in studying the landscape of higher education. He is pragmatic and optimistic about the road ahead. “In general, higher education is facing uncertain and hard times; Christian higher education is confronting its own set of unique challenges,” Hager observed.
“The exciting part is seeing what business and financial models we can develop for long-term sustainability,” Hager said. “The mission of NCU is about kingdom work in a dynamic community and global landscape. Change is a constant. Dynamic, fast-paced changes are our reality. I don’t know what the new models will look like … it will not be a single solution, but the contribution of many parts within the university—innovative and highly integrated. It will not be ‘one and done,’ but rather an iteration of a long series of continuous improvements based on what is happening internally and externally, [with a goal to be] predictably adaptive.”
Strengthening recruitment and retention
VP Bethany Harshbarger oversees areas highly impacted by the challenges and opportunities facing higher education. Her teams are tackling new realities head-on through a variety of innovative initiatives. “We are excited to continue to improve our processes and student experiences in all areas,” Harshbarger said. “I’m especially eager for the rollout of our new “One Stop” student services model that provides a streamlined path for students to access the NCU services they need. With One Stop, new recruitment initiatives, and enhanced marketing resources, we are positioned for an excellent future!”
The student experience drives retention, and AVP Jeremy Williamson, M.A., is excited about North Central’s return to vibrancy following a year-and-a-half of anything but ordinary at NCU. “I am excited for NCU to feel like NCU again,” Williamson reflected. “Last year, many of the hallmarks of NCU were challenging to pull off; this year, we expect to move forward into a thriving, vibrant campus again, where each person is engaged in the learning process in and out of the classroom.
“I am looking forward to students, staff, and faculty all being in the same space and having opportunities to learn and grow from each other as we follow the Lord.”
Amazing opportunities ahead
With NCU’s leadership team in place, Hagan sees unlimited growth opportunities. “Leadership changes can seem intimidating, but I see generational opportunities ahead for our university. It begins with being beautifully situated in downtown Minneapolis along with the right technologies to export our learning around the world through online learning. The Lord has perfectly orchestrated the social, technological, and spiritual conditions—combined with a Senior Leadership Team that is more than ready to lead North Central into a new era of educational and Kingdom impact.”