Changes in Academic Affairs

Dear Colleagues:

The higher education landscape is constantly developing, and seemingly at a faster pace than ever before. To lead effectively in times of change, LMU must continuously assess the approaching horizon, remain nimble, and take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves. Through conversations and planning efforts among many in the LMU community, we have identified several areas primed for growth, including: graduate education, student persistence and graduation, continuing education, and online education. With excitement, I announce organizational changes that will leverage our capabilities and resources in these areas.

Graduate Education
For years, LMU has aspired to bolster and reinvigorate our graduate programs. Now is the time to act on our plans and realize our ambitions in graduate and professional education. To this end, I am reorganizing Academic Affairs to strengthen LMU’s position among leading U.S. universities.

The most significant change is that I appointed David Sapp, Ph.D., vice provost for Academic Affairs and dean of Graduate Education. Vice Provost Sapp, also a professor of educational leadership, will collaborate with colleagues on a variety of matters vital to the success of graduate education at LMU (e.g., accreditation, new program development, support services, fundraising). He will partner with Maureen Weatherall, vice provost for Enrollment Management, who will continue to apply her expertise to improve the business operations of graduate education, including admissions, student recruitment, and financial aid.

In his continuing role as vice provost, Vice Provost Sapp will serve as the chief of staff for the provost with oversight for areas leading undergraduate education, assessment/accreditation, institutional research, data governance, and continuing education. As dean of Graduate Education, Vice Provost Sapp will serve as the institution-wide academic leader of graduate studies, advocating for graduate students and their faculty, optimizing structures and policies, and determining opportunities for growth. He will be responsible for overseeing the implementation of the university’s graduate education strategy, while the oversight for individual graduate programs, including faculty hiring and evaluation, budgets, and assessment, will remain with the school and college deans who head each of these programs. More information about this appointment may be found here.

To support Vice Provost Sapp with his new responsibilities, I have reorganized Academic Affairs to achieve these key goals:

  • Mission: As announced in January in LMU This Week, the Academy for Catholic Thought and Imagination (ACTI) and the Center for Religion and Spirituality (CRS) are now overseen by John Sebastian, vice president for Mission and Ministry. The Marymount Institute for Faith, Culture and the Arts will report directly to me, the same reporting structure prior to 2018. The Marymount charism is integral to who we are at LMU—I look forward to reconnecting with the Institute as provost;
  • Global-Local: The Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Center for the Study of Los Angeles and the Center for Urban Resilience will now leverage synergies between global and local engagements under the leadership of Roberta Espinoza, vice provost for Global-Local Initiatives;
  • Academic Support for Athletics: José Badenes, associate provost for Undergraduate Education, will now be the point person working closely with Matt Casana, assistant athletics director for Student-Athlete Services, to support our Division I student-athletes;
  • Online Learning: Kathleen Weaver, associate provost for Research and Professional Development, will now report to me and will lead new learning opportunities as described below.

Additionally, in his new role, Vice Provost Sapp will leverage his extensive experience in higher education administration to maximize collaboration and ignite momentum in our graduate programs. Please join me in congratulating David on his new responsibilities.

Student Persistence and Graduation
Our students’ success through the encouragement of learning, the education of the whole person, and the service of faith and the promotion of justice is our top priority at LMU. Two measures of student success are our retention and graduation rates, which are among the highest they have been in LMU’s history. Our “restless desire to do more,” as President Snyder has often described the magis, compels us to nourish this success. I am delighted to appoint Jennifer Belichesky-Larson as assistant vice provost for Strategic Initiatives, effective March 9, 2020. Reporting to Vice Provost Sapp, this position will manage and track progress on key strategic initiatives for the university. She will lead campus-wide efforts on undergraduate student retention and graduation rates, and the implementation of data governance principles, policies, and standards. More detailed information on the position and on Assistant Vice Provost Belichesky-Larson’s impeccable qualifications may be found here.

Continuing Education
With the move of Director Bob Hurteau and the Center for Religion and Spirituality to Mission and Ministry, we seek to appoint a permanent senior director for Continuing Education. Still reporting to Vice Provost Sapp, this position will oversee LMU Extension and provide vision and leadership for meeting specialized educational needs of working professionals and post-traditional learners. I expect this position to be posted in the near future and for a process to begin in which we reimagine the role of continuing education at LMU, as has been done in recent years at other leading AJCU institutions.

Online Education and Summer Programs
Effective immediately, I have redefined Kat Weaver’s position to associate provost for Research, Professional Development, and Online Learning. Associate Provost Weaver will continue her work orienting new faculty; assisting students, faculty and staff with research and professional development opportunities; and overseeing the rank and tenure process; and will begin leveraging opportunities for online delivery of an LMU education. In this regard, modalities such as online, hybrid, and the summer session, will be critical to the success of LMU’s graduate endeavors, continuing education, and our ability to retain students. More details on this initiative and Associate Provost Weaver’s qualifications can be found here.

These changes are the result of ongoing dialogue and discernment, including with faculty bodies; they build on the rapid, impressive growth we have made in recent years; and they point us in directions that will enable LMU to take advantage of our momentum and propel us even further.


Thomas Poon, Ph.D.
Executive Vice President and Provost