An Intriguing Job Title Pulls a Continuing-Education Dean South

Stetson U.

Emily C. Richardson
February 19, 2012

Someone came over to me at a conference in September and said, "I found your perfect job." I said, "I didn't even know I was looking."

They said, "Well, I read a job description, and it just so sounds like you." I was absolutely intrigued by the title: "associate vice president for boundless learning." I thought, How cool that is, to explain what we do as continuing educators? The title alone gives you the scope of Stetson's vision.

So I'm leaving Widener after 22 years, with 10 years in my current position of dean of University College, the home for nontraditional learners. I also held a tenured position in the School of Hospitality Management; I ran hotels before I came into education.

I've been quite content here, so it really takes something to pull me away. This new job gives me the opportunity to go in and define something new, and to use what I've learned here at Widener.

Stetson's motto is "Dare to be significant." I absolutely love that. For example, say you're one of the baby boomers and have worked the corporate life for a long time, and now you want to give back by transitioning to a nonprofit, but you don't have the background to write grants. By giving you those skills, we can help you to be significant in your next position.

I'll work with a variety of different adults. It could be people who are looking to finish a degree, or to come back to gain additional work-force skills, or to re-energize themselves and find that new something that they want to do.

Stetson already has a huge noncredit division and does a lot of work with high-school students. I'll see how that can be expanded.

I'm going to spend a lot of time meeting with faculty members and other administrators at Stetson. Part of my job is to ferret out ideas but also to provide a way for them to incubate. And to try to innovate and make them real.

My husband and I, although we both grew up in cold country, always loved the warmer climates. So that doesn't hurt.

And I'm at the point in my life where my boys are now out of the house and they have their own lives and they're all over the country, and as long as Mom is close to an airport, who cares where she's at?

Name: Emily C. Richardson Age: 58

New job: Associate vice president for boundless learning at Stetson University, in Florida, assigned to devise learning opportunities for students of all ages who "dare to be significant." (Stetson trademarked that phrase, along with the job title.)

Previous position: Dean of University College at Widener University, in Pennsylvania.

Highest degree: Doctorate in higher-education administration from Widener.

As told to Peter Monaghan