Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff:

I am pleased to announce the selection of Brandi Hephner LaBanc, Ed.D. to serve as Old Dominion University’s Vice President for Student Engagement and Enrollment Services. Following a national search with the engagement and expertise of Greenwood/Asher & Associates, Dr. Hephner LaBanc will officially join the Monarch family on June 10, 2023, following more than a decade of strong leadership and exemplary service as the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Campus Life at The University of Massachusetts Amherst and as the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs at The University of Mississippi, both flagship Research 1 institutions with more than 31,000 students and 22,000 students respectively.

Vice President Hephner LaBanc will serve as a member of the University’s senior leadership team and will be responsible for the critical areas of Admissions; Career Development Services; Center for Major Exploration/Mane Connect Success Coaching; Center for Social Mobility; Counseling Services; Dean of Students Office; Educational Accessibility; Financial Aid; Housing and Residence Life; Intercultural Relations; Military Connection Center; Student Engagement and Traditions; Recreation and Wellness; Registrar; Student Conduct and Academic Integrity; Student Health Services; Student Transition and Family Programs; and Women and Gender Equity Center.

Dr. Hephner LaBanc will provide needed leadership and strategic focus to design, implement, and monitor enrollment targets and recruitment objectives, as well as tactics and strategies, to advance and enhance the institution’s current efforts and overall impact. She will focus on student engagement and enrollment programmatic initiatives that support, embrace, and enhance the diversity and success of the student body, including robust plans and strategy to significantly improve student success measures, especially retention and graduation rates, as well as overall engagement.

Prior to joining Old Dominion University, Dr. Hephner LaBanc has faithfully and successfully engaged in the student affairs profession spanning more than 25 years at several institutions. Throughout her career, she has been focused on the wellbeing of all students, which took shape in her instrumental work on the William Magee Center at Ole Miss and the Okanagan Charter at UMass Amherst. Furthermore, she has spearheaded inclusion work, thereby enhancing campus climate to serve all students equitably. She has also proudly led efforts to enhance campus responsiveness to student needs, specifically focusing on collaborative and systemic approaches to enhancements and solutions. Her collective work to positively impact individual students has included focused efforts to increase engagement and success rates, including the First-Generation and Transfer Task Force at UMass Amherst and strategic collaborations at Ole Miss aimed at significantly improving retention rates.

Dr. Hephner LaBanc has received many accolades and awards throughout her career. In 2020, she was honored as a Pillar of the Profession by NASPA, a member-centered association supporting a diverse and passionate network of 15,000 professionals and 1,200 institutions across the globe. Also, in 2020, she was honored by her alma mater and prior employer, Northern Illinois University, as the inaugural Higher Education and Student Affairs (HESA) Alumni of the Year Award winner. She has also been acknowledged by another alma mater, Kent State University, with an Alumni Leadership Award from the College of Education, Health, and Human Services and induction into the Hall of Fame. Perhaps, her most coveted awards are the ones that have been bestowed upon her by students, such as the Vicki Mahan Ally of the Year; Women’s Empowerment Award; and Lift Every Voice Award, which were all received during her tenure at Ole Miss.

Additionally, as an active and engaged leader on each of the campuses she has served, Dr. Hephner LaBanc has been integral in the classroom. As a Professor of Higher Education at UMass Amherst, she currently serves as an affiliate faculty member in the Department of Higher Education with participation in college and program faculty meetings and recruitment events, as well as involvement in student advising at the doctoral level. During her tenure at Ole Miss, she served in the roles of Associate Professor and Professor of Higher Education as a regular faculty member by teaching core courses for the master’s program. She also participated in admission decisions for all programs and provided leadership for new student recruitment efforts, while also advising thesis work and doctoral student research; engaging in program review and curriculum development; assessing learning outcomes; serving on search committees for fellow faculty members; and voting on faculty matters at the school level.

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Austin Agho, Ph.D., who served as the Search Committee Chair, said, "When the search process was launched, we were sharply focused on identifying well-qualified, innovative, dynamic candidates for the position of Vice President for Student Engagement and Enrollment Services. We were also looking for a proven professional with deep experience in these two broad functional areas, as well as significant scholarly activities and on-going professional development. It was important to identify an individual who had the needed background and direct experience with enrollment planning and programming, which is an area where Dr. Hephner LaBanc truly excelled during her tenure at Ole Miss. With her selection, we have concluded a successful search that will provide profound and lasting benefits to our campus community, including current and future generations of Monarch students.”

Zaria Gassaway, an undergraduate student leader who will graduate this spring with plans to re-enroll as a graduate student this fall, said, “As President of the Student Government Association, I was pleased to serve as a member of the Search Committee, which fully recommended Dr. Hephner LaBanc’s campus visit. During the student body’s interaction with her, it was evident that she has a clear passion for students. In this important role as our next Vice President, I am confident that she will advocate for our needs and champion our success!”

Another member of the Search Committee, Associate Professor Corrin Gillis, Ph.D., who serves in the Department of Communication Disorders and Special Education and is also Vice Chair of Faculty Senate, shared her strong support for Dr. Hephner LaBanc. “During the search process, we were committed to finding the person who could balance the complexities of both student engagement, as well as enrollment services. We needed someone who would be dedicated to our students as individuals and could also look at the institutional level data to understand the barriers and facilitators to their success as a group. Based on Dr. Hephner LaBanc’s extensive background, as well as our overwhelmingly positive interactions with her, there is no question that she is the Monarch we were looking for.”

Associate Professor Dennis Gregory, Ed.D., who currently teaches in Old Dominion’s higher education and community college leadership graduate programs and previously served as a student affairs professional, said, “Dr. Hephner LaBanc brings an increased caliber of leadership to our institution. She has a long and successful tenure in a profession that requires a deep commitment and true passion. I look forward to partnering with her as we continue to grow Old Dominion University in terms of engagement and success!”

Upon her selection for the position, Dr. Hephner LaBanc said, "During my recent visit to Old Dominion’s campus and the Hampton Roads region, I felt an immediate connection to the individuals that I met and the community as a whole. As a first-generation student, I am truly passionate about the access and opportunity that Old Dominion University has provided for nearly a century. It is a special place that embraces diversity, fosters discovery, and pursues excellence. I could not be more proud and excited to continue my professional career and lifelong passion as a Monarch!”

A published author and engaged researcher in the areas of free speech, emergency preparedness and response, and gun violence prevention, Dr. Hephner LaBanc earned a B.S. in Accounting from The University of Akron; an M.Ed. in Higher Education Administration and College Student Personnel from Kent State University; and an Ed.D. in Adult and Higher Education from Northern Illinois University.

Without question, Dr. Hephner LaBanc is highly-regarded in the national higher education landscape and brings a great deal of expertise and experience, as well as passion and pride, to Old Dominion University. As a proven administrator and accomplished scholar, she has a distinguished and impactful record of positively influencing the campuses and communities that she has served. From cutting-edge initiatives and state-of-the-art facilities to immersion programs and expanded services, her tireless efforts have been exemplified by an unwavering commitment to creating greater opportunities, enhancing overall impact, and embracing positive change. Please join me in welcoming Vice President Hephner LaBanc to Old Dominion!

With Monarch Pride,

Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D.