Image Courtesy: Lauren Keane (SNHU External Affairs)

After 20 years at the helm, SNHU announced that Paul LeBlanc will be stepping down as president effective June 30, 2024. The Board of Trustees unanimously voted for University Provost, Lisa Marsh Ryerson, to take over on July 1, 2024.

Since joining SNHU, Ryerson has embraced the community and is excited to continue her work in this new role. “[There is such] joy and excitement to be able to continue to work with a wonderful community to lead and guide our mission,” said Ryerson. “That powerful sense of the awesome responsibility of serving as the college president for Southern New Hampshire University.”

Ryerson has presidential experience in higher education, serving as president at Wells College, where she attended for her undergraduate degree, for 18 years. She also served as the president of the AARP foundation for another eight years. In 2022, she became university provost where she has worked alongside President LeBlanc.

“[I was] just thrilled with the opportunity to serve as provost because that’s about guiding student and learning experience, and bringing us together as one university,” said Ryerson.

Taking over this position serves as a challenge, considering LeBlanc has been in the role for so long and has led the campus through so much change, notably the incorporation of the robust online program. Despite the challenge, LeBlanc’s mentorship has made Ryerson ready to lead.

“President LeBlanc and I have been very planful and intentional about the transition,” said Ryerson. “…we announced the transition in early December and have spent this entire time being thoughtful about being sure that he mentored me and shared information for decision making that has occurred at SNHU. He has been an incredible colleague guiding me, but also recognizing that I will be my own leader and allowing me to begin that journey as well.”

Excitement is what Ryerson feels about this opportunity, and she is ready to push SNHU’s mission.

“What I’m most excited about is our mission,” said Ryerson. “I get up every day because I work on behalf of our colleagues, students, and our learners around the globe. Our mission inspires me every day. When you think about a mission that says we will transform lives at scale with the needs of each learner being understood and met, that, for me, is so inspirational. I’m excited that I get to do that; I will lead with the community. I have the opportunity and incredible pleasure and privilege and honor of serving as the president, but we are truly a connected community at SNHU, and that is what excites me.”

SNHU is the single largest nonprofit university in the United States. With rapid growth over the last 20 years, Ryerson has a familiar five-year outlook.

“My ideal vision for the university in five years is that we continue to grow and add value, for our learners both here on campus and the many places where learners are learning across the nation and around the world,” said Ryerson. “In five years, we will see our campus thriving and flourishing as she is today, but continuing to do so being an important central hub for SNHU and our learning community, and many more learners of all ages, identities, and intersection of identities.

With a focus on the campus, Ryerson sees the campus evolving based on what the students need, with changes happening that would support SNHU’s mission.

“We have a beautiful campus,” said Ryerson. “I would say that any physical changes that we need will emerge from our learners who are learning on campus. I can’t call those in advance except to say that I do anticipate investments in our campus to support the learning and living environment that is important for our students, and for the staff and faculty.”

Ryerson’s mission is clear, and she is ready to take on this role with the SNHU community’s best interest in mind.

“If I do nothing else, but do this, driving equitable outcomes is my biggest goal,” said Ryerson. “I mean that in both a very broad way, and a specific way. I mean that for our learners everywhere. Being sure that we are driving equitable outcomes ties back to our mission where we work actively every day to be sure that we know each learner…  and that we work to develop pathways for degree attainment that meet the needs of every learner, and we have gaps in equitable attainment of degrees across SNHU. That is a key focus for me. Over the next five years… we can do it, we must do it. It’s important for our learners. It’s important for society.”