Nancy F. Krippel understands the power hope wields in a college classroom. As dean of adult and graduate studies and associate dean of Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, Va., she has enjoyed sharing her own story in order to lift others.
"What I see reflected in their eyes is hope that they can do it, too," Krippel said.
Once a college dropout and single mother of three young children, Krippel turned her empty work future into a mission of personal discovery. Through English literature studies and senior-level administrative posts, Krippel found and pursued gifts she never realized she possessed.
On Friday, those gifts carried her to Gainesville. Brenau University named Krippel as its next provost. She also will be the vice president for academic affairs when she takes the post July 5.
"This was my professional ambition, to be the chief academic officer at a small, private institution," Krippel said. "I am so pleased to have this opportunity."
Krippel's appointment comes at critical period of growth for Brenau. A long-range plan called Brenau 2025 outlines a path for the university to double its nearly 2,500-student enrollment through graduate studies and programs aimed at nontraditional coed students.
Expanding online studies while strengthening the university's foundation as a women's liberal arts college are parts of the plan as well.
Krippel's selection has a lot to do with her direct experience with most of these critical program areas, said Debra Dobkins, associate professor of English and director of the writing center.
"She brings so much to the table that we really need at Brenau," said Dobkins, who led the search committee tasked with finding a new provost. "She has experience with graduate programs, experience with the adult learner, has worked with multiple campus locations and on top of that, she has experience at a women's college and is a product of one herself. ... She really seemed to fit us in a remarkable way."
As important, Dobkins said, is Krippel's warm personality, which several Brenau officials described as "dynamic" and well-suited for her new job and this community.
A scholar of 18th century literature with a largely feminist perspective, Krippel entered academia first as a business student.
She switched her major to English at Barat College in Lake Forest, Ill., a women's college where she would later become associate professor. She followed her bachelor's degree at Barat, with master's and doctoral studies at Loyola University, Chicago.
At Barat, she served as vice president of academic affairs. Her career continued at Longwood College, and later Longwood University in Farmville, Va., where she was associate provost and directed graduate studies and its Southern Virginia Higher Education Center in South Boston, Va.
Krippel has been at the prestigious Mary Baldwin College since 2003 and is responsible for budgets totaling more than $4.3 million.
She will replace Jim Southerland, a longtime faculty member at Brenau who has served as provost since January 2009. He helped the university navigate its accreditation review earlier this year.
He will continue at the university in a semi-retirement teaching and support role.
"I see her as an extraordinarily bright, articulate, energetic, enthusiastic and engaging individual," Southerland said. "She brings exceptional experience and expertise to the provost position."
Her selection concludes a nationwide search that began in October and peaked at nearly 170 candidates, officials said. Krippel's second of two interviews on campus took place about two weeks ago.
She will relocate to Gainesville with her husband, Frank. They have three adult children and six grandchildren who all live in the Chicago area.
Krippel acknowledged the provost position is one "that finds itself right in the middle" often as the academic officer in charge of relaying concerns between faculty and students and Brenau President Ed Schrader.
Studying the university at work day-to-day is among the first steps she intends to take.
"Right now, what I want is to learn about is Brenau," Krippel said. "That means getting to know the people here. That also means getting to know Brenau as an institution, and where those two intersect. My first job at Brenau is as student."