Advised by a search committee that included trustees, alumnae, students, faculty, and staff, the Board of Trustees enthusiastically approved Newkirk’s appointment. The comprehensive national search began in October 2015 when President Betsy Fleming announced her intention to step down on June 30, 2016, after serving for eleven years. More than 100 qualified candidates were considered, leading to the search committee’s unanimous recommendation of Newkirk.
Ben Wall, chair of the Board of Trustees, said, “As a highly respected and effective leader who is primed for even greater responsibility, Krista Newkirk is an ideal leader for Converse College. What set her apart from the highly qualified field of candidates was her strength as a strategic thinker who understands all facets of the higher education enterprise and skillfully leverages partnerships to achieve mutual success. As her experience demonstrates, she is an outstanding collaborator who knows how to build consensus across multiple stakeholders with diverse interests. An excellent listener and thoughtful communicator, she possesses the calming poise and presence of an experienced leader who is both confident and at the same time humble.”
“Thanks to the exceptional leadership of President Betsy Fleming,” Wall continued, “Converse has created a strong position among America’s best liberal arts colleges – widely recognized for excellent student outcomes, for willingness to make bold moves that maximize our strengths, and for innovative ideas that are reshaping the higher education business model. Converse is steadfast in our mission to develop engaged, adaptable citizens through a liberal arts education for women because it is clear that this mission is as relevant and important today as ever. Krista shares our deep commitment to this mission and to the uniquely powerful environment at Converse. We look forward to her leading the College to even greater success.”
As UNC Charlotte’s first chief of staff, Newkirk provides oversight of the University’s strategic goals and initiatives, plays a central role in addressing major issues confronting the University, manages large-scale institutional projects across divisions, works closely with the Board of Trustees, and oversees annual budget allocations. She developed the university’s compliance and Title IX offices and recently completed a comprehensive study to recommend a new division of Institutional Integrity for UNC Charlotte to include Legal Affairs, Internal Audit, Compliance, Enterprise Risk Management, and Title IX. She streamlined administrative processes to improve the likelihood of success and graduation for students who must withdraw from the University for a short period. She developed and coordinated a financial model for the University to begin a marching band program and worked with faculty in the music department throughout its implementation. Newkirk works closely with the faculty council president to ensure a model of shared governance with the Board of Trustees. She was key in the development of UNC Charlotte’s Institute for Social Capital, a data center coordinated with Charlotte region agencies and nonprofits which fosters university research to increase the community’s capacity for data-informed decision-making.
Prior to serving as chief of staff, she was senior associate general counsel for UNC Charlotte, supporting the Chancellor, Board of Trustees, and faculty and staff on a wide range of legal topics, managing complex litigation, and serving as counsel for several start-up non-profit corporations. Before joining UNC Charlotte, she worked as an attorney in both private practice and at a Fortune 300 company.
“I am humbled and honored to have been selected to serve as the next President of Converse College,” Newkirk said. “President Fleming’s strong leadership over the last eleven years has propelled Converse to succeed when other similar institutions have floundered or have forsaken their mission. Converse has created a magnetic educational experience because of the value it places on both academic excellence and co-curricular opportunities. I look forward to working with the trustees, faculty, staff, students, alumnae, and members of the community to continue this work, finding new ways to strengthen Converse and to provide value for our students and alumnae. Together, we will demonstrate that a liberal arts education is the foundation for society and for the workforce, regardless of sector. My family and I also look forward to joining the Spartanburg community where higher education is deeply valued, and where citizens are creating a vibrant culture that is receiving impressive national recognition for economic growth and innovation.”
Philip L. Dubois, chancellor of UNC Charlotte, said, “Krista will be an outstanding president of Converse College. She brings a wealth of administrative and legal experience to the job, having served for over eight years on our Legal Affairs staff and, more recently, for over four years as UNC Charlotte’s first chief of staff to the chancellor. She has defined that job from day one, taking on literally everything that was asked of her and then some. We’ll miss her superb organizational skills, her ability to lead collegial and effective planning exercises, her insights into solving difficult problems, and her great sense of humor. The Trustees at Converse have made an exemplary choice.”
His sentiments were echoed by the chair of UNC Charlotte’s Board of Trustees, Karen Popp, who commented, “I have seen firsthand the breadth of Krista’s higher education experience and knowledge. Krista is a strong leader who is not afraid to tackle difficult issues and quickly and expertly develop solutions. Although we are sorry to lose her, we are excited that others recognize her potential and look forward to seeing Converse continue its trajectory of growth under her leadership.”
Erskine Bowles, former president of the University of North Carolina system and White House Chief of Staff, praised Newkirk’s selection. “What a great choice Krista Newkirk is to lead my mother’s alma mater, Converse College,” he said. “I had the chance to speak at Converse not long ago and observe firsthand the remarkably effective transformation Betsy Fleming has brought to this proud college. Krista has worked closely with one of the most effective leaders in higher education in Chancellor Phil Dubois. She has a deep understanding of, and passion for, higher education, as well as the talent, experience, work ethic, and people skills to propel Converse forward.”
Newkirk spent most of her childhood in Missouri. She attended the University of Missouri’s Honor College and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she graduated in the top five percent of her class with a Bachelor of Arts in English and a minor in philosophy. She went on to earn her Juris Doctor from the Marshall-Wythe School of Law at the College of William & Mary, where she served as editor-in-chief of the William & Mary Journal of Women and the Law and as a teaching assistant, and was selected Outstanding Woman Law Graduate by the National Association of Women Lawyers.
Newkirk is a graduate of Leadership North Carolina and has 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. She also served as Vice Chair and Secretary of the Board of Directors for the Metrolina Regional Scholars’ Academy, a nonprofit, public charter school for gifted and talented children. Her honors include selection by her peers as a Legal Elite in the corporate counsel category by Business North Carolina. She and her husband, W. Lewis Glenn III, have two sons.
Reactions from the Search Committee
Converse’s 13-member presidential search committee was formed in September 2015 and chaired by Life Trustee Bill Barnet. Comprised of trustees, students, faculty, staff, and alumnae, and assisted by executive search firm Isaacson, Miller, the committee “demonstrated an unwavering commitment to Converse College and conducted a comprehensive search in a deliberate manner,” said Barnet. “We were fortunate to have an exceptionally strong pool of candidates to consider. This diverse and deeply committed group has served Converse well.”
“Krista Newkirk has demonstrated her broad knowledge of the higher education landscape, connecting Converse’s strengths with the needs of our students and society,” said Converse Provost Jeff Barker. “Her hands-on experience in the many aspects of operating a modern college or university will serve her well as our new president, as will her strong commitment to our mission. She not only understands the link between clear, effective planning and operational success, she has done that planning and put it into operation. Finally, she has an essential trait of every successful president: she listens carefully and completely.”
Melissa Walker, George Dean Johnson, Jr. Professor of History, commented, “From a faculty perspective, Krista’s profound commitment to the transformative power of the liberal arts is exciting. I’m proud to welcome her to our campus to build on the momentum generated by Betsy Fleming’s excellent guidance.”
Converse Student Government Association president Jessica Backman ’16, from Charleston, S.C., said, “I am excited to have Krista Newkirk join the Converse family as our next president. Given her personal story and her professional success, she will be an inspiring role model and mentor to students. She is an individual that students will enjoy approaching and getting to know.”
Alumna Kim Kent ’97, vice chair of the Board of Trustees, added “Krista is respected by her current community for her enormous energy, fairness and ability to listen and act in the best interests of the many constituents impacted by each decision in which she plays a role.”
Visit the Presidential Search website for more information.