Devorah A. Lieberman Selected University of La Verne’s 18th President

December 7, 2010 by University of La Verne

Devorah Lieberman, a nationally recognized academic leader and award-winning educator, has been selected by the Board of Trustees to be the 18th President of the University of La Verne. Lieberman will be the first female president in the university’s 119-year history when she takes office on July 1, 2011.

The trustees’ recent decision, which concluded an intensive 10-month national search, was announced today by Board Chair Luis Faura.

“Dr. Devorah Lieberman is an innovative, accomplished administrator with a national reputation as a transformational leader. Her selection as the 18th president of the University of La Verne is a significant achievement for this institution,” Faura said. “Throughout her career she has fostered personal learning experiences for students, promoted expanded multicultural and diversity education opportunities, pioneered programs designed to support faculty development and research, and advanced the scholarship of civic engagement. The Board of Trustees is confident she will pilot this university to great achievements and prominence.”

Becoming president at La Verne is the latest achievement in Lieberman’s 33-year career in higher education. She has established herself as an engaged and collaborative administrator as well as an enthusiastic and exceptional educator. Since January 2004 she has served as provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at Wagner College, a private comprehensive liberal arts institution in Staten Island, N.Y.

Lieberman said she is honored to be selected to the La Verne presidency and looks forward to furthering the successful goals and objectives already established at the university.

“I am honored to serve as the 18th president of the University of La Verne. I believe that the values and mission that provide for the foundation for this university reflect the very best of a private liberal education,” Lieberman said. “I look forward to working closely with the entire university community in our combined efforts to create an environment where all students, faculty and staff can achieve their greatest potential.”

Lieberman will officially assume the position following the retirement of President Stephen C. Morgan on June 30, 2011. Until then she will continue her administrative duties at Wagner. She plans to return to La Verne multiple times before the end of the 2010-11 academic year to meet with members of the campus community, expand her knowledge of the university and work closely with Morgan and others to prepare for a seamless transition.

Morgan is La Verne’s longest tenured president, having served 26 years as the leader of his alma mater. Upon learning of the selection of Lieberman to succeed him, he applauded the board’s decision and offered his support for the university’s next president.

“Choosing a person to be a leader is an important and challenging assignment. In selecting Dr. Devorah Lieberman, a remarkable academic senior administrator and engaged educator, our Trustees have made an exceptional decision that will benefit La Verne for many years to come,” Morgan said. “Dr. Lieberman shares La Verne’s values and brings a great deal of experience along with tremendous enthusiasm to the position. She is the right person to take this university to new heights and build upon its excellent educational legacy.”

Her peers have recognized Lieberman for promoting national initiatives including institutional transformation, balancing graduate and liberal education, student and faculty development, internationalization and diversity. She has been regularly published in higher education books, journals and periodicals, and has made presentations at a variety of venues throughout the country and worldwide. From 2002-05 she was one of 13 national scholars selected to participate in the Project on the Future of Higher Education, a three-year institute addressing national issues in higher education including budget reduction, increasing student learning and maintaining faculty vitality.

Topping Lieberman’s list of national involvement in higher education are her status as chair of the American Council on Education (ACE) International Collaborative, her work as an ACE Institute Facilitator, her position as Institutional Representative chair for the New American Colleges & Universities, and her serving on an advisory board for the National Review Board for Civic Engagement.

At Wagner, Lieberman has administered all academic, curricular, information technology and student-related elements. Under her direction, the college has seen the ethnic diversity of entering students rise by eight percent, the overall student enrollment switch from featuring primarily in-state residents (65 percent in 2004)) to having the majority of students come from outside New York state (60 percent in 2010), and the student retention rate between the freshman and sophomore years increase to nearly 90 percent. During that same span, financial support for faculty research and scholarship has jumped from $33,000 to $240,000 annually, and participation in the college’s study abroad program has more than tripled to include 25 percent of the student body.

Wagner has received increased national recognition during Lieberman’s tenure. Honors include the 2005 Theodore Hesburgh Award, the 2009 Clinton Global Initiative, the 2010 Washington Center Civic Engagement Award, and for three consecutive years was listed on the Presidential Honor Roll for Community Engagement (2008-10). In its 2010 America’s Best Colleges ratings, U.S. News & World Report magazine ranked Wagner No. 1 in its Regional Universities-North category and listed it among the publication’s “Colleges Committed to Undergraduate Education” and “Up and Coming Colleges.”

Along with her administrative duties, Lieberman has continued to teach. One course – Intercultural Business Communications – she co-taught online with a professor in Athens, Greece, an endeavor that earned Wagner the American Council on Education “Bringing the World into the Classroom” award in 2010.

Lieberman’s involvement in advancement solicitations and grant submissions at Wagner contributed to or funded several substantial institutional efforts, including The Center for Teaching, Learning & Research; The Center for Leadership & Service; student scholarships; endowed faculty positions; international programs; and faculty scholarship and research. Lieberman was principal investigator in grants totaling several million dollars awarded by Corporation for National & Community Service/Learn & Serve; the Teagle Foundation; the Staten Island Foundation; Bringing Theory to Practice; the Association of American Colleges & Universities American Council on Education; and the Richmond County Foundation.

Prior to her time at Wagner, Lieberman spent more than 16 years at Portland State University in Oregon as both a faculty member in the Department of Communication Studies and an administrator. During her final four years she was vice provost and special assistant to the university president. In 2000, she was honored as Oregon Professor of the Year, awarded by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. She also received the 1999 Distinguished Faculty Award from the Portland State Alumni Association.

While at Portland State, Lieberman extended the Oregon Leadership Institute to become a statewide mentoring program for Latino students, helping them to successfully graduate from high school and enroll in college. She also chaired the statewide Board of Directors for the Oregon Council for Hispanic Advancement (OCHA). Her diversity efforts earned her OCHA’s 1995 Si Se Puede Award and its 1998 Amistad Award, as well as the 2003 Las Mujeres de la Raza Award presented by Portland State students and the City of Portland.

La Verne began the search process following Morgan’s February 18, 2010, retirement announcement. The Board of Trustees hired Witt/Kieffer, a national firm specializing in executive searches and dedicated to serving health care, academic medicine, higher education and not-for-profit organizations, to advise and assist with La Verne’s presidential search. At the same time, a presidential search advisory committee was formed to review qualified applicants, conduct interviews and present the Board with selected finalists and accompanying recommendations.

That committee, co-chaired by Trustees Ken Calkins and Emmett Terrell, included five additional Board members as well as individuals representing all four of La Verne’s colleges, the administrative/professional and classified employees, the university’s Coalition for Diversity and the Alumni Governing Board.

Dennis Barden, senior vice president for Witt/Kieffer, directed his firm’s efforts throughout the process.

“The University of La Verne’s presidential search is a textbook example of a national and inclusive search process. Led by a broadly representative and extraordinarily hard-working search committee, the university was able to consider an exceptionally broad and diverse pool of candidates, narrowing them in number from more than 60 to 10 for preliminary interview and from there to four finalists,” Barden said. “The Board was presented with a talented group from which to make a difficult and happy decision on the very best, and was unanimous in its support of Devorah Lieberman as La Verne’s next president. As a result of this thorough process, the university will move ahead with the confidence that they have chosen the best of an extremely strong group of candidates.”

Raised in Covina, Calif., Lieberman earned a bachelor’s degree in Communications Studies from Humboldt State University (1975), a master’s degree in Intercultural Communication (’77) from San Diego State University and a PhD in Intercultural Communication and Gerontology from the University of Florida (’84).

Her husband, Roger Auerbach, received a bachelor’s degree from Alfred University (N.Y.) and a juris doctor from Boston University School of Law. He was a senior policy adviser to former Oregon Governor Barbara Roberts on health, employment and housing policy, and later served as Oregon’s statewide director for senior and disabled services. Currently he is the president of Auerbach Consulting, Inc., and works with  federal and state governments on long-term care issues for older and disabled adults.

They have two daughters. Allie Lieberman-Auerbach earned her bachelor’s degree and graduated with honors from George Washington University and received a master degree in public health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is a research analyst for RTI International in Raleigh, N.C. Emery Lieberman-Auerbach, who graduated with honors from Staten Island Academy (N.Y.) in 2010, is a freshman attending Scripps College in Claremont, Calif.

About the University of La Verne

Founded in 1891, the University of La Verne is a comprehensive, independent university offering bachelors, masters and doctoral programs. Located in Southern California, it is a designated Hispanic-Serving Institution with a student body that mirrors the region’s diversity. As part of its commitment to lifelong learning, La Verne serves both traditional and non-traditional-age students, all receiving a sound, people-centered, values-oriented education. By accentuating learning and leadership, it equips its graduates with the knowledge to make a difference and the confidence to achieve it.

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