New SU administrator on the job

By Kim Walter

With just a month in as Shenandoah University’s new vice president for academic affairs, Adrienne Bloss is more than ready for students to start showing up on campus.

“Over the summer you sort of forget the energy that comes with this population of college students, so I think we’re all looking forward to the next few weeks,” she said.

Bloss began in the position July 8, succeeding Bryon Grigsby, who served on the university’s leadership team since 2008. Bloss was selected from a pool of more than 125 applicants.

SU President Tracy Fitzsimmons said she was thrilled to welcome Bloss to the ranks of senior administration.

“Her impressive academic credentials and extensive resume make her the clear and unanimous choice for this position,” she said. “Adrienne understands our institution and will excel in identifying ways to raise our university’s academic profile.”

Previously, Bloss was the associate dean for academic affairs and institutional relations at Roanoke College. There, she was instrumental in the development of a new college-wide honors program and the significant expansion of the national scholarship program.

Bloss is also a professor of computer science and mathematics, and served on the faculty at Virginia Tech. She earned her bachelor’s degree in systems engineering from the University of Virginia, master’s and doctoral degrees in computer science from Yale University and, in 2006, completed the management development program at Harvard University.

After completing her impressive coursework, Bloss received and completed the prestigious American Council on Education Fellowship. As fate would have it, she was actually placed at Shenandoah University for the program during the 2010-2011 school year.

“ACE is very deliberate on where they place you for the fellowship,” she said. “And I quickly got the idea that Shenandoah has excellent leadership, and is constantly growing and changing.”

During the year, Bloss focused on the areas of budget process, institutional advancement and institutional identity. The fellowship also included seminars, intensive learning opportunities and campus visits across the country.

“I’m constantly asking the question, ‘What does education mean in our country, our world?'” she said. “And you know, it seemed to me that SU was addressing that.”

Bloss said she was immediately drawn to the university’s community connections, and its “educational mission” to serve more than just its students.

Though she enjoyed the experience, she said she didn’t plan to come back to the school, as she was very happy at Roanoke College. However, when she saw an article about Grigsby leaving, she knew she had to apply.

“I remember seeing it and I looked at my husband and said, ‘Holy cow,'” she said.

Over the past four weeks, Bloss has been through plenty of introductions with people and places. She’s also already been involved with progress on the school’s new health science’s building, which is under construction.

“I’m not really making a bunch of decisions, but I’m making sure that the right people are involved in the process,” she said. “I want the faculty who will actually be using the space to have what they need.”

Bloss said a few projects were already under way when she entered into her role, like the university acquiring the Cool Spring Battlefield in Clarke County. The 195 acres will still be preserved and open to the public, but now students can also use it as a one-of-a-kind outdoor classroom.

“This is an incredible opportunity for students with history, outdoor research, conservation … it’s great,” she said. “I need to stay focused on supporting projects like this as they evolve.”

More than anything, Bloss said her responsibility is academic excellence. She views Shenandoah University as a diverse place, and not just in the types of students. She said the number of schools and education programs, mixed with the relatively small student population, is rather “unique.”

She said she hopes to help foster more communication and interdisciplinary work between the existing academic programs.

However, right now Bloss is zeroed in on just the 2013-2014 school year, since to her she’s “doing everything for the first time.”

“I’m actually responsible for a residence hall on move-in day, so that will be a great way to start meeting students and families,” she said. “With convocation and the first day of school … it’s all very exciting, and I can’t wait to get that true sense of what SU is all about.”

Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or kwalter@nvdaily.com