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John Blackshear named University’s vice president for student life

August 28, 2023

In the role, Blackshear will oversee the creation of a new division dedicated to the student experience at Rochester.

Portrait of John Blackshear.

John Blackshear is joining the University of Rochester this January as vice president for student life. (Photo provided)

John Blackshear, the current dean of students, associate vice president for student affairs, and associate vice provost for undergraduate education at Duke University, will join the University of Rochester as vice president for student life effective January 1, 2024. Provost David Figlio announced Blackshear’s appointment, which is a leadership and cabinet-level role reflecting a robust commitment to the student experience at Rochester.

The vice president for student life will oversee the creation of a new division dedicated to the student experience at the University. Reporting to the provost, the vice president will help create an exceptional undergraduate and graduate student experience, specifically at a residential, research-intensive university. This new role and division will bring together University-wide units and activities for both undergraduate and graduate students, including the Office for Residential Life and Housing Services; Dining Services; Athletics and Recreation; Religious and Spiritual Life, and University Health Service, which comprises Primary Care, the University Counseling Center, and the Health Promotion Office.

This position brings together many of the activities that were supervised by the late Paul Burgett when he held a similar vice president role, along with some additional responsibilities.

It is also part of a new Student Experience Team that Figlio announced this past spring that is building an even richer and more robust student experience at Rochester. As a member of this team, Blackshear will work with colleagues to develop a multidisciplinary approach to support student life, centering leadership conversations on and around the student experience.

“I’m thrilled to welcome John Blackshear to Rochester,” says President Sarah Mangelsdorf. “I have heard many wonderful things about him from his colleagues at Duke. He has a very strong record of success there and has imagined and implemented some truly innovative programs to enhance student and residential life on campus. He brings to our University valuable experience in joining together student affairs with academic units to develop a campus culture of support and inclusion.”

Adds Figlio, “John brings a wealth of experience and an extraordinary track record of success to this role. I am confident that under his leadership—and with the collaboration of our exceptional student life staff—we will achieve our goal of being recognized among the nation’s best for student experiences. He will be an extraordinary steward of Paul Burgett’s legacy here at the University. I also want to thank the members of the search committee and the University community for the time and effort they dedicated to the search process and for bringing John into this important role.”

Jane Gatewood, vice provost for global engagement, and herself a member of the Student Experience Team, chaired the 20-person search committee, which included faculty, staff, students, and trustees.

“Our committee took seriously our responsibilities to find a leader with vision and experience who can propel Rochester forward in creating a holistic approach to student life,” says Gatewood. “I know I speak for every member of our group in saying that John Blackshear stood out as having these qualities plus the personal characteristics needed to effectively lead the University in this area.”

Blackshear brings to the role more than 20 years of student life and residential life experience, as well as professional experience as a clinical psychologist.

“I firmly believe that the diversity of experiences that I have had in the academy, as well as my progressive growth as a leader, sets me up to successfully serve the University of Rochester,” says Blackshear. “I am a servant leader, and I am very excited to share my knowledge and heart with the Yellowjackets community.”

For the past three years, Blackshear has served as associate vice president for student affairs, dean of students, and associate vice provost of undergraduate education, coordinating shared priorities among Student Affairs, Duke University’s academic deans, and the Office of Undergraduate Education. Among his responsibilities in these leadership roles has been supervising Duke University Student Health Services; University Wellness supports; and Duke University Counseling and Psychological Services. In addition, he cochaired the Duke University Next Generation Living and Learning Experience 2.0 Committee. He has been a strategic partner in QuadEx, Duke’s flagship inclusive living-and-learning model that enhances and integrates the social, residential, and intellectual lives of undergraduates. He also oversees Duke’s New Students and Family Programs, which serves the QuadEx Programs and Sophomore Spark, a second-year students’ scholarship, major declaration, and campus life initiative. Additionally, he supervises Housing and Residential Life’s Residential Education staff and initiatives.

Blackshear was previously dean of academic affairs for Duke’s Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, as well as senior associate dean of academic planning in Trinity College. He has served in a wide range of essential support roles for students at Duke, including academic dean, supervising Duke’s low-income and first-generation scholarship and success programs, serving as clinical director of the Academic Resource Center, and working with Duke’s Office of Student Returns and Student Disabilities Access Office. He was Duke’s student ombudsperson from 2007 to 2015.

Blackshear holds a doctorate in clinical psychology from Georgia State University, and earned a master’s degree in community/clinical psychology and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Florida A&M University. He has also served as an adjunct instructor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke.

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Category: University News