Julie Shaffer named interim senior vice chancellor

KEARNEY – Julie Shaffer will serve as interim senior vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

Chancellor Doug Kristensen announced the appointment Tuesday, pending approval by the NU president and Board of Regents. Shaffer will serve as interim for a minimum of one year while UNK conducts a national search to fill the position on a permanent basis.

Julie Shaffer
Julie Shaffer

“Dr. Shaffer brings to the position more than 20 years of experience as a member of the UNK faculty, including over five years of experience as chair of the Department of Biology,” Kristensen stated. “She has extensive experience with external funding and graduate programs and is recognized as an excellent teacher.”

She replaces Kristen Majocha, who took the position in July 2022 after previously serving as dean of the College of Social Sciences and Human Services and College of Education and Liberal Arts at California University of Pennsylvania. Majocha is now in a faculty role in the UNK Department of Communication.

Shaffer joined the UNK Department of Biology in 1999 and was promoted to associate professor in 2004 and professor in 2010. She served as the department’s graduate program chair for seven years and online director for one year before becoming the department chair in 2017. Currently, she’s co-chair of the department along with fellow biology professor Kim Carlson.

Shaffer has taught undergraduate and graduate courses – online and in person – while mentoring countless student researchers. With interests in microbial ecology and tickborne pathogens, she’s presented at numerous conferences and had her work published in a variety of academic journals. Her research projects have received more than $6 million in grant funding.

She’s also served on several campus committees and academic program review teams and is a current fellow for the National Strategic Research Institute at the University of Nebraska.

Among her many awards and honors, Shaffer received the Pratt-Heins Award for Teaching in 2010 and Leland Holdt/Security Mutual Life Distinguished Faculty Award – the university’s most prestigious faculty honor – in 2014. She was instrumental in revising the curriculum for her department’s undergraduate and graduate programs while creating several courses in her area of expertise.

Shaffer earned bachelor’s degrees in biology and English from the University of Sioux Falls and a doctorate in biology with an emphasis in microbial physiology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She’s a past president of the Nebraska Academy of Sciences and Missouri Valley Branch of the American Society of Microbiology and also has membership in the American Association for the Advancement of Science, National Science Teaching Association, Association of College and University Biology Educators, Entomological Society of America and National Association of Biology Teachers.

The senior vice chancellor for academic affairs is the chief academic officer at UNK, overseeing three academic colleges, general studies and Graduate Studies and Academic Outreach. The position also oversees the library, Academic Resources and Institutional Research, assessment, Sponsored Programs and Research, UNK Global, registrar and academic programs such as undergraduate research, the Honors Program and Thompson Scholars Learning Community. Additionally, they serve as liaison to the Higher Learning Commission and OneIT.