The University of Minnesota Duluth has hired Amy Hietapelto to serve as the interim executive vice chancellor for academic affairs.
Hietapelto's official start date is June 21, after the current executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, Fernando Delgado, leaves to take a job as president of Lehman College in New York City. Delgado has been at UMD since summer 2016.
For the last eight years, Hietapelto has been the dean of UMD's Labovitz School of Business and Economics.
"I have been looking for a bigger challenge," Hietapelto said. "I'm excited to gain some new skills, to broaden the scope of things that I manage, oversee more people, deal with larger challenges."
Her top priorities are workplace culture for UMD employees and improving campus climate.
With a degree in organization studies, she's co-authored several research papers that outline different ways in which organizations, including higher education institutions, can act more equitably.
Her research interests have included understanding and minimizing resistance to change in organizations, implicit bias in students' evaluations of faculty, how organizations can implement supportive diversity practices authentically, rather than superficially, as well as gender inequity among university faculty and how universities can monitor for that.
"Those interests inform my style, those interests inform how I approach problems and decision making and how I work with people, and it will continue to do so," she said. "That's why I was interested in taking on an associate dean role years ago, because it was a chance to apply all of those concepts and theories and my interests in real life."
Prior to UMD, Hietapelto taught at two different universities before becoming an associate dean for three years and a dean for seven years, both at Northern Illinois University's College of Business and Management.
She anticipates she'll work in the interim role for at least a year, or possibly longer, depending on when UMD can open a national search for a permanent executive vice chancellor. The University of Minnesota system has had a hiring freeze in place since spring 2020.
Hietapelto's been preparing for the transition into the interim position since April. Her leadership style is rooted in communication and she plans to open up as much of it as possible.
"I do believe strongly in shared governance and empowerment and working through issues jointly," she said. "I can make tough decisions and I'm completely comfortable doing so."
In response to Tracy Bibelnieks' public resignation due to gender-based discrimination in the math department, UMD's faculty senate and the University Education Association, or the faculty union, recently hosted a virtual open conversation for faculty who were invited to share their own experiences with workplace issues on campus. As a staff member, Hietapelto said she attended because she wanted to hear their stories and understand issues outside of the business college.
"I made it very clear if anyone was uncomfortable I would be willing to leave. … I purposefully just listened until the very end and then I said, 'If you want me to talk a little bit like everyone else I will,'" she said. "I shared some of my personal experiences so the group can understand I'm hearing them, I do understand and I've gone through some of those same experiences."
Asked if she plans to apply for the job when the national search opens up, she said: "I will be thinking about that. It's of some interest to me. Let's see how the next year goes."