Carroll University appoints first female president

Sara Ray Stoelinga hired away from University of Chicago

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Since Carroll University‘s doors opened in Waukesha in 1846, it has been witness to momentous change in American history. It was founded a few months before the start of the Mexican-American War; two years before Wisconsin gained statehood.

Sara Ray Stoelinga.
Sara Ray Stoelinga.

Over the next 170 years, it would close temporarily during the Civil War. It would witness a national political reorganization that would give birth to the Republican Party in Ripon about 90 miles northwest of its campus. It would burn down in a fire and be rebuilt. Its students would witness or fight in several wars, including two World Wars. Its campus would undergo several periods of expansion and renovation.

But in all that time, the state’s oldest college would never fall under the leadership of a female president.

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That will change in July.

Sara Ray Stoelinga, 43, director of the University of Chicago’s Urban Education Institute and a clinical professor on the university’s committee on education, has been appointed the 15th president of Carroll University, effective July 1, 2017.

Stoelinga will replace president Douglas Hastad, who will retire June 30 after leading Carroll for more than a decade.

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“It’s an honor,” Stoelinga said of her appointment. “Becoming a college president has been a lifelong career goal for me. Becoming Carroll University president is humbling, and becoming the first female president is obviously wonderful. I’m thrilled.”

Hastad announced his retirement in May. He was named president in 2006. Under his leadership, the school completed more than $100 million in renovations to campus facilities, raised $50 million through the largest endowment campaign in its history, and changed its name from Carroll College to Carroll University.

Stoelinga said she plans to “continue to build on Doug’s (Hastad) legacy, particularly when it comes to his emphasis on expanding Carroll’s business and health sciences programs.

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“He’s done a great job,” Stoelinga said. “It’s a privilege to follow such a strong and beloved leader.”

Born in St. Paul, Minnesota to a theology professor at the University of St. Thomas and a high school teacher for St. Paul Public Schools, Stoeligna received a bachelor’s degree and a Ph.D in sociology from the University of Chicago. After completing her education, Stoelinga stayed with the University of Chicago, where she helped build its Urban Education Institute over the past 22 years. The UEI conducts research on education, operates a charter school and trains urban teachers in Chicago.

In her current role as director of the UEI, Stoelinga oversees 500 employees and a $46 million operating budget.

“Frankly, she just blew the search committee away when we interviewed her,” said Jim DeJong, chair of Carroll University’s presidential search committee. “We were so just extremely impressed with her ability to think strategically and bring insight into some of the challenges that face higher education.”

DeJong said Stoelinga’s appointment as president marks a “historic moment” for the university and anticipates she will continue building the school’s life sciences and graduate programs.

“With Sara’s very strong background in education, I think we’ll also see some focus on the educational programs at Carroll,” DeJong said.

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