University of Missouri Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Bill Stackman will become the new dean of students for the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Stackman confirmed in an email to The Crimson on Monday.
Stackman’s selection ends a months-long search for the school’s next dean of students following the departure of Samuel H. Bersola in July 2022. Stackman is expected to succeed interim dean of students Sheila Thomas in July 2023, becoming the third person to fill the permanent position position in just over three years.
The appointment has not yet been officially announced by the university, which declined to comment.
Stackman earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate in educational leadership from Boston University. Stackman has worked in higher education for 40 years, serving as associate vice president for student services at the University of Notre Dame, director of student activities at Texas A&M University, and dean of student affairs at Rhodes College, among other administrative roles at institutions of higher education education.
In an email to the University of Missouri President’s Council — a group of student body leaders — Sunday afternoon, Stackman announced that he will step down from his position at Mizzou in July to serve as “Dean of Students at Harvard University.”
“This departure is completely unexpected and has proven to be a very difficult decision,” he wrote.
In a follow-up email to The Crimson, Stackman clarified that he will assume the role of dean of students in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
In a message to faculty, University of Missouri President Mun Y. Choi thanked Stackman for his four years at the university.
“He has been a tireless advocate for our students, a collaborative partner in our academic success initiatives, worked closely with our faculty and staff, and helped the university achieve growth in student engagement and retention,” Choi wrote.
With a resume in higher education dating back more than four decades, Stackman brings a wealth of experience to a role that has lacked stability in recent years. The position’s responsibilities have been held by three different administrators in the three years since the departure of longtime GSAS Dean of Students Garth O. McCavanagh in 2020.
Bersola, Stackman’s predecessor, left the role in July 2022 to “return to his family in Southern California,” according to an emailed statement from GSAS Dean Emma Dench at the time of his departure.
Bersola — the former assistant vice chancellor for graduate education at the University of California, Los Angeles — was named in a 2020 civil lawsuit against UCLA filed by Margaret Purnell, a former assistant dean in the university’s division of graduate education.
Purnell’s lawsuit alleges that the UCLA administration discriminated against her pregnancy during her employment there. In his complaint, Purnell alleged that Bersola made “inappropriate and insensitive comments about children,” which included “comparing the employees’ children to his dogs.” The complaint also alleges that Bersola subsequently became critical of Purnell’s performance and was insensitive to her medical needs and requests for time off during her “high-risk” pregnancy.
In an order granting partial summary judgment, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Curtis A. Keen wrote that “a reasonable juror could find that Bersola was denigrating child-rearing responsibilities” and that he was “prejudiced against pregnant women and women giving birth’. The case is scheduled to go to jury trial on June 12.
Bersola did not respond to requests for comment. GSAS spokeswoman Anne Hall pointed to Dench’s statement announcing Bersola’s departure, but declined to comment on the ongoing litigation.
—Staff List Nia L. Orakwue can be found at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @nia_orakwue.
—Staff list Claire Yuan can be found at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @claireyuan33.