Vice President for Human Resources and Chief Human Resources Officer

Vice President for Human Resources and Chief Human Resources Officer

Seattle University

Seattle, WA   |   December 20, 2021

Seattle University seeks an innovative, experienced, and collaborative leader to serve as its next Vice President for Human Resources (VPHR) and to lead institutional efforts towards excellence across the full range of human resource programs and services.

The VPHR is a critically important role that carries broad responsibility for effecting positive change and growth in the university’s culture, policies, practices, and systems. The position provides counsel to the President, serves as a member of the President’s leadership team, and shares in leadership responsibility for the administration of the university as a whole. The VPHR brings expertise to lead, develop and provide outstanding comprehensive human resources services, practices and policies, manages and supports a team of professionals charged with effective implementation across all human resource areas, and fosters collaboration and partnerships across campus in support of the university’s strategic goals.

Seattle University is dedicated to empowering leaders for a just and humane world and aspires to be among the most innovative and progressive Jesuit and Catholic universities in the world.  The VPHR will not only manage significant operational complexity but will also play a key role in shaping institutional culture.  The successful candidate will demonstrate familiarity and capacity to lead and manage within the distinctive culture and needs of a higher education workplace and to communicate and deepen a strong sense of the university’s culture in accordance with our values and traditions as a Jesuit institution.

The VPHR will play a critical role in the implementation of the Reignited Strategic Directions 2022-2027 to be formally launched by President Peñalver in January 2022; in particular with goals relating to strengthening professional formation, promoting inclusive excellence, and repositioning the university for growth. The VPHR is a key partner and leader in ensuring best practices, clear policies and standards, and effective compliance that advance the institution and protect it from institutional risk.

This position is ultimately responsible for leading the HR team, university leadership and the broader campus community to better foster the success and satisfaction of our faculty and staff, and thereby make the institution more fully an outstanding employer in support of the university’s mission, values, and vision.

About Seattle University

Founded in 1891, Seattle University (SU) draws upon the Jesuit tradition of moral and intellectual development to educate critical thinkers and compassionate leaders. Located in the heart of our dynamic city and region and educating over 7000 students, SU strives to become one of the most innovative Jesuit and Catholic universities in the world in fulfillment of its mission to educate the whole person, provide professional formation and empower leaders for a just and humane world.

Seattle University offers 65 undergraduate programs, 31 graduate programs at both the masters and doctoral levels, and more than 30 certificate programs, granting degrees through eight schools and colleges: Arts and Science, Business and Economics, Education, Law, Nursing, Science and Engineering, Theology and Ministry, and New and Continuing Studies. Students are taught by outstanding, experienced faculty and the average class size is 18 students. Scholarship is enhanced by the work of specialized centers and institutes, including the award-winning Sundborg Center for Community Engagement, the Indigenous Peoples Institute, the Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture, the Center for Ecumenical and Interreligious Engagement, and the Center for Environmental Justice and Sustainability. Experience in teaching is fostered by the outstanding Centers for Faculty and Development and Digital Learning and Innovation.

Awards and high rankings for academic rigor, sustainability, and community engaged learning are among SU’s touchstones of excellence. SU has more than 90,000 alumni in 98 countries. Seventy percent remain in Washington after graduation, contributing to the state economy and talent pool.

In addition to rigorous and engaging academic programming, SU offers a host of programs and services to support, engage and educate its students. These programs and services include housing and residence life; academic and professional development resources including career engagement and education abroad; physical, emotional, and spiritual support such as Counseling and Psychological Services and Campus Ministry; student involvement opportunities such as intercollegiate athletics, recreational sports, community engagement, and student government; and communities of support, including the International Student Center, Office of Multicultural Affairs, Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and the Veterans and First Gen Outreach Center.  Seattle University is included among top universities nationally in rankings by the US News and World Report, The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education, Forbes, Washington Monthly, and Princeton Review.

The distinctive quality of Seattle University’s academic programs and student experience attract diverse, talented, and motivated students who are committed to the institution’s mission and Jesuit values. Over 40 percent of SU’s students identify as persons of color and 10 percent are international students. To reduce financial barriers, SU awards financial assistance to 92 percent of undergraduates, 70 percent of graduate students, and 93 percent of law students. The University’s vibrant and inclusive campus environment and experiences foster engagement and community for its students, faculty, staff, and alumni. SU sponsors 20 intercollegiate sports at the NCAA Division I level. SU views athletics as a key component of the Jesuit philosophy of educating the whole person.

According to our latest Fiscal Year 2021 Audited Financial Statements, the University has unrestricted annual expenses of $202 million, including $15 million in grants and contracts, positive operating margin, and an endowment of $311 million. Emerging from the pandemic, the university’s financial position is stable and there are plans to invest in enterprise-wide systems including HR systems over the next five years building business intelligence and analytics functions and overall business process improvements.

SU is committed to fostering a diverse and thriving university community within a supportive and respectful environment. SU believes that the diversity and lived experiences of the faculty, students, and staff are essential to their success in the university’s teaching, research, and service dimensions as a leading university with a global reach, and that diversity of perspectives is an integral part of institutional excellence.

For more information on Seattle University, please visit their website.

Leadership: President Peñalver

This is an exciting time to join Seattle University as it welcomes the new leadership of President Eduardo Peñalver. Prior to being named Seattle University President, Peñalver served as the dean of Cornell University’s Law School from 2014 until 2021.  Peñalver is a Rhodes Scholar and a professor of law who clerked for former U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. Peñalver received his bachelor’s from Cornell’s College of Arts and Sciences in 1994 and his law degree from Yale Law School in 1999. As a Rhodes Scholar, he received his Master of Arts in Philosophy and Theology at Oriel College, Oxford.

In addition to Cornell Law School, Peñalver has held faculty appointments at Fordham Law School and the University of Chicago, where he was the John P. Wilson Professor of Law. He has also been a visiting professor at Harvard and Yale law schools. Peñalver’s work on property law has been published in scholarly law journals at Yale University, the University of Michigan, Cornell, and the University of Pennsylvania. He is considered a leading voice in the “progressive property” movement, deriving many of his insights from Catholic social teaching.

For more information on leadership at Seattle University, click here.

The Opportunity

Seattle University seeks a progressive and future focused HR leader with experience leading institutional change in complex environments and who is energized by creating positive impact across the institution.

The VPHR directs and coordinates the strategic and operational decision-making in the development and implementation of meaningful and measurable human resources programs and services. The VPHR will foster strategic collaborations and partnerships that drive organizational effectiveness in support of the university’s mission, values, and vision. The VPHR will demonstrate familiarity and capacity to lead and manage within the distinctive culture and needs of a higher education workplace.

Seattle University is in the process of integrating the office of Faculty Services into Human Resources, which now has responsibility for all HR functions for faculty as well as staff.  The employment relationship of faculty to the university is distinctive, with generally greater levels of autonomy, rank and tenure, the protections of academic freedom, and the influence of the faculty role in shared governance.  The VPHR will have a strong understanding of faculty employment and the interest and capacity to work with faculty and faculty governance bodies.

Reporting directly to the President, and serving as a member of the President’s senior leadership team, the VPHR has responsibility for the strategic and operational management of Seattle University Human Resources with a focus on enriching campus culture, talent management strategy, professional development and formation, integrating values of diversity, equity, inclusion and access to all human resources communications, programs, policy, and practices, developing a competitive total rewards program, and facilitating organizational culture change. The challenges inherent to the high cost of living and competitive employment market of its Seattle location, providing responsive support across the workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic, the growing demand for racial and gender equity, and the need to attract and retain best-in-class talent illuminates the complexity and challenge of this position.

Responding to rapid changes in the world of work and understanding of the importance of employee engagement and belonging and, by doing so, better developing and retaining faculty and staff is a critical priority for Seattle University. To achieve this, the VPHR will provide values driven and people centered leadership and be both energized and motivated by the opportunities and potential impact of working with the campus community to create an institution poised for the future.

Key Qualities and Responsibilities for the individual in this role include:

Visionary Leadership and Facilitator of Organizational and Cultural Change

  • Serve as a trusted partner to the President and leaders across the campus to develop and implement strategic change and growth initiatives.
  • Demonstrate integrity and ethics driven by values;
  • Ensure all HR policies, programs, services, and practices reflect SUs mission and values.
  • Critically examine the status quo, setting and achieving strategic goals that advance HR practices and institutional culture and/or mission.
  • Manage constituent expectations, serve as an accessible resource, and advocate for all SU employees.
  • Maintain current knowledge and understanding of state and federal employment law, health and safety guidelines, higher education workplace requirements, and other policy and regulatory requirements of the university.

Foster an Equitable, Diverse, and Inclusive Work Environment and in Support of the Institutional Mission’s and Values

  • Ensure Seattle University’s people and culture are continually a part of the leadership conversation and strategy and be a partner in advancing the LIFT SU initiatives and action plan to drive institutional change toward racial equity.
  • Work in partnership with the Provost’s office and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion to integrate diversity and equity imperatives in HR programs, policies, and practices.
  • Communicate and deepen a strong sense of the University’s culture in accordance with the values and traditions of Jesuit institutions.
  • Foster an institutional focus on practices that foster resilience, compassion, equitable practices, innovative thinking, and high-impact work.

Talent Management and Workforce Development Expertise

  • Lead efforts to establish stronger talent pipelines through enhanced sourcing, effective onboarding, and retention programs.
  • Provide open communication and partnership across the schools, colleges and leadership teams, to support a culture of accountability, service, inclusion, equity, and high performance.
  • Optimize people-centered practices such as hiring, training, supervision, professional development, performance management, and faculty/staff relations to ensure these efforts work in sync to support SUs strategies, mission, and values.
  • Oversee annual programs such as performance management, total rewards and employee benefit communication, and develop talent management practices that support a competitive workplace.
  • Establish the highest-quality and impactful orientation, and on-boarding practices that create an immediate experience of belonging and thoughtfully set up new hires to succeed in their roles.
  • Develop and manage strong relationship with the University’s unionized workforce and the labor unions that represent them.
  • Direct employee compensation standards and benefits programs and services and benchmark to ensure they are competitive in the marketplace, while considering the university’s financial obligations.

Lead and nurture a highly competent, confident, and empowered Human Resources staff and team to ensure high performance across all areas of responsibility

  • Provide inspirational leadership to a team of human resource professionals committed to excellence and in service to the campus community.
  • Continue and advance the university’s shift toward data-informed decision making and implementing technology solutions to human resource needs.
  • Work with the Office of the Provost to continue the integration of Faculty Services and develop all needed systems and skills to support faculty human resource needs.
  • Regularly assess strengths and challenges in the work environment, leverage insights which amplify productivity and efficiency, ensure equity, and support learning and development practices which advances the university’s strategy.
Candidate Profile

The Vice President for Human Resources and Chief Human Resources Officer of Seattle University is a strategically minded, proactive, and solutions focused partner who excels at leading through influence to encourage best practices and facilitate decisions improving the effectiveness and outcomes of employee initiatives, programs, and services. The ideal candidate will serve as the institution’s leader on people issues, be a trusted advisor and partner to the president, senior leaders, and the Seattle University community to build a culture of innovation and foster an engaging and inclusive work environment for all employees.

The successful candidate will have progressive human resources leadership experience at an executive level. The next VPHR will lead by example in demonstrating trust, open communication, compassion, enthusiasm, and encouragement and have experience building capacity and motivating a team of human resource professionals.

The successful candidate will possess the following attributes and competencies:

  • Visionary and strategic: able to connect vision to culture and infuse shared values throughout and organization.
  • Deep personal and professional integrity that intentionally shapes and influences a positive work culture. Committed to “doing the right thing”.
  • Understands how to communicate the culture and build community. A progressive mindset with experience and demonstrated capacity to lead multicultural organizations that effectively serve BIPOC and/or LGBTQ+ communities.
  • Skills in constructive conflict management and resolution skills; thoughtful, fair, uses discretion, sound judgment, clarity, and transparency.
  • Systems-minded and experienced in the operational aspects of human resources; uses data-informed decision making and able to step into operational, legal, and compliance matters when needed or appropriate.
  • An enterprise change leader; a record of success in leading and guiding change management and transformation practices.
  • Strong ability to build, develop, and influence internal relationships and communities to support institutional growth and development initiatives.
  • Understands the financial implications of decisions and provides leadership with choices that promote fiscal health balanced with creating a positive work environment. Planning and budget management experience for the HR division and institutional fringe benefits.
  • Builds HR capacity and fluency in equitable and inclusive practices and policies within a challenging regulatory landscape.
  • Ability to connect HR strategy to university strategy; a holistic thinker, intentionally shapes and influences a positive work culture.
  • Engagement with professional networks and resources and an informed understanding of current thinking and best practices in the field.
  • A strong track record in fostering trust and professionalism across senior leadership, institutional stakeholders, and Board members.
  • Success building a high performing HR organization by leading, developing, and mentoring; builds skills and capacity to meet the future needs of the University.
  • Experience managing contracts, vendors, legal counsel, and other external partners to ensure enterprise risk management and strong fiscal stewardship.

Seattle University provides a competitive compensation and benefits package appropriate for this position’s scope, stature, and level of responsibility.


Beth Schaefer and Holly Bogo of Koya Partners have been exclusively retained for this search. To express interest in this role please submit your materials here. All inquiries and discussions will be considered strictly confidential.


Seattle University does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, political ideology or status as a Vietnam-era or special disabled veteran in the administration of any of its education policies, admission policies, scholarship and loan programs, athletics, and other school-administered policies and programs, or in its employment related policies and practices. In addition, the University does not discriminate on the basis of genetic information or status as a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking in its employment related policies and practices, including coverage under its health benefits program.

About Koya Partners

Koya Partners, a part of Diversified Search Group, is a leading executive search and strategic advising firm dedicated to connecting exceptionally talented people with mission-driven clients. Our founding philosophy—The Right Person in the Right Place Can Change the World—guides our work as we partner with nonprofits & NGOs, institutions of higher education, responsible businesses, and social enterprises in local communities and around the world.

For more information about Koya Partners, visit