More leadership turnover at Arcadia: President to leave in June

Following a year with a deficit and an exodus of members from its board of trustees, Arcadia University on Monday announced that its president, Nicolette DeVille Christensen, will leave her post at the end of June when her contract expires.

The announcement did not address why Christensen — who has been at the helm for a little over three years — will leave or whether it was her choice or whether the board of trustees did not renew her contract.

Arcadia president Nicolette DeVille Christensen will leave her post at the end of June.

Her exit comes just three months after Chris van de Velde stepped down as chairman of the board of trustees, citing personal reasons.

University officials had no immediate comment on the reasons for Christensen’s impending departure.

“The Board of Trustees wishes to acknowledge Dr. DeVille Christensen's role in leading the university through a challenging period of transition,” Charles Lentz, chair of the board of trustees, said in a statement. “Her innovations will enable the next leadership team to build upon those successes to ensure a healthy and productive future for Arcadia.”

Christensen has served as president since October 2013. She had stepped in to the lead the university as chief operating officer in March of that year after the board fired Carl "Tobey" Oxholm III as president. Christensen came to Arcadia in 2008 from New York University and led Arcadia's College of Global Studies for five years.

“It has been an honor to serve Arcadia University as president for the past four years and previously as vice president of The College of Global Studies," she said in the statement. “I am extremely proud of the progress our close-knit, global community achieved during my tenure, especially in working alongside such talented faculty and staff in accomplishing the goals and objectives set forth by the University's Strategic Plan.”

The board did not announce an interim leader or detail plans for a search.
“The Board of Trustees will convene to finalize the succession plan for Arcadia's executive leadership,” said Lentz, principal of McKinley Elementary in the Abington School District.

Christensen’s departure follows continued upheaval at the Glenside university. In August, the Inquirer reported that 10 members of the board of trustees had resigned in recent months, and that five more have left as their terms expired. That means nearly half of the board that oversaw the university a year earlier were no longer there.

Those who left included distinguished members, some with leadership positions and roles in overseeing finances. Among them, according to sources close to the university, are: Jo Bennett, a lawyer with Schnader, Harrison, Segal & Lewis; Thomas Johnston, chief executive officer of Mucosis, a vaccine development company in the Netherlands; Richard Llewellyn Jones, retired president of Abington Memorial Hospital; David Plastino, a banker; Nancy R. Kyle, who works in real estate; Ellen Toplin, a strategic marketing professional; and Patricia DeBow, a strategy consultant at Accenture Federal Services.

The departures occurred as the university, which operates on a $125 million budget, was trying to close a deficit originally projected at between $7 million and $10 million in March and reduced to $1.4 million in June. The university at that time said it had since balanced the budget.

“Among the resignations,” then Faculty Senate President Peter Siskind wrote to faculty in August, “include the vice chair of the board, the chairs of the board's Governance Committee and College of Global Studies Committee, and those who had been selected to be the new chairs of the Finance and Infrastructure Committee and the University Advancement Committee. ... All this raises questions about causes and consequences.”

Also in 2014, the university abruptly announced that its provost, Steve O. Michael, second-in-command, was out. There has been significant turnover in several other leadership positions at the university in recent years, including the departure of Matt Golden, who had been vice president for university relations.

Arcadia, a 76-acre campus with about 4,000 undergraduate and graduate students, is known nationally for its emphasis on study-abroad programs. Under Christensen’s leadership, the university enrolled four of its largest undergraduate classes in the university’s history, the school said in the statement.

It’s not clear whether Christensen will remain at the university. She plans to “engage with strategic development initiatives in new contexts,” the statement said.