University of New Haven Announces Innovative Two-Year Leadership Transition Plan
Steven H. Kaplan, Ph.D., the visionary president of the University of New Haven who has significantly raised the visibility and academic profile of the university since 2004, will become chancellor and CEO. Current university Athletic Director Sheahon Zenger, Ph.D., will be named interim president.
February 18, 2022
Today, the University of New Haven’s Board of Governors announced an innovative leadership transition plan that will enable the university to grow, build on the momentum of its recent successes, and strengthen its position as a financially sound, highly regarded, comprehensive university.
On July 1, 2022, Steven H. Kaplan, Ph.D., who has been president of the University of New Haven for the past 18 years, will become the university’s first chancellor and CEO. In this new role, he will focus his time externally on high-level fundraising, strategic partnerships, and board relations while continuing to maintain oversight of the university’s overall financial results and operational performance.
Sheahon Zenger, Ph.D., who currently serves as director of athletics and recreation at the university, will become interim president. He will serve as the university’s internally facing and community leader, overseeing day-to-day operations with areas of responsibility including branding and reputation, revenue generation, and the implementation of the university’s recently launched five-year strategic plan, A Bold Path Forward. Under this new transition plan, the interim president, the provost, and all vice presidents will report to the chancellor and CEO.
"At a time like this, our highest priority is ensuring there is a solid leadership transition plan in place."Board of Governors Chair Charles Pompea
In the announcement, Board of Governors Chair Charles Pompea said, “As all of higher education is facing a time of immense change and mounting competition, the continuity of the university’s achievements and momentum is paramount to the Board of Governors. The board is keenly aware of the pandemic’s profound impact on the value proposition of a college education and the critical spotlight focused on teaching and learning; diversity, equity, and inclusion; student mental health; COVID-related budgetary pressures, and more — all on the cusp of the so called ‘demographic cliff.’ At a time like this, our highest priority is ensuring there is a solid leadership transition plan in place.”
Pompea noted that since becoming the University of New Haven’s sixth president in 2004, “Steven Kaplan has created an aspirational vision for the University, leading it through a period of remarkable growth and development. During the past two years, he has expertly steered us through the financial and public health crises created by the pandemic. Thanks to his inspiring leadership, the university ranks among the top universities in the Northeast.”
During Kaplan’s presidential tenure, enrollment at the University of New Haven has grown more than 65 percent to 7,500 undergraduate and graduate students, hailing from across the globe. Full-time undergraduate enrollment has more than doubled, and first-year applications have quadrupled. Interest and enrollment in graduate education is spiking, particularly among international students. In fall 2021, the university welcomed its largest and most diverse incoming first-year class in university history.
"It has been an exhilarating experience serving the University of New Haven community. Thanks to the dedication of everyone across the university, we have accomplished a great deal and established what we believe is a strong foundation for continued success."Steven H. Kaplan, Ph.D.
Since 2005, the university has completed $300 million in construction projects, adding or upgrading 600,000 square feet of academic and facility space, and has launched three dozen new academic programs.
Kaplan spearheaded the creation of the university’s first comprehensive capital campaign. Launched as a precursor to the university’s historic centennial in 2020, the campaign far exceeded its original goal of $100 million by raising $167 million. The centerpiece of the campaign was the development of the award-winning Bergami Center for Science, Technology, and Innovation, which opened in 2020 and is one of the finest academic spaces in the country.
Under Kaplan’s leadership, the university has experienced a dramatic rise in its U.S. News & World Report ranking, moving up nearly 40 spots since 2019. The university has been recognized by the Princeton Review and featured each of the past six years in its annual guidebook of the top colleges and universities in the country. Other surveys place the university among the nation’s best programs in business, criminal justice, health sciences, engineering, cybersecurity, forensic science, and the liberal arts and sciences.
Kaplan spearheaded the development of the university’s campus in Tuscany, Italy, which opened 10 years ago, and the acquisition of its Orange (CT) Campus, a former worldwide corporate headquarters that is now home to the Pompea College of Business. He was also instrumental in the launch of the university’s Connecticut Institute of Technology and creation of the David A. Beckerman Recreation Center; Gehring Hall, the home of the Henry C. Lee Institute of Forensic Science; and several residence halls.
Regarding the appointment of Zenger as interim president, Pompea said, “Sheahon Zenger joined the university in 2019 and is a strong internal leader who is well-respected, has played a key role in the strategic planning process, and has built trusting relationships with internal stakeholders, decision makers, and donors. Working together with Steven Kaplan, he will help drive the strategy for the university’s continued growth and positive results.”
Prior to joining the University of New Haven, Zenger spent his career in higher education in increasingly more significant leadership roles, including as an assistant to the chancellor at Texas Christian University, and overseeing large staffs and budgets. At the University of Kansas where he worked for eight years and had earlier earned his doctorate in educational policy and leadership, he had responsibility for 350 full- and part-time staff members and a budget that grew from $69 million to approximately $100 million, and oversaw the construction of nine new buildings and stadiums. In addition, he served as chair of the Big 12 Conference Directors of Athletics while simultaneously serving as cochair of the University of Kansas Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee.
"I’ve been preparing all of my professional life for just such an opportunity, and to have it come at a university blessed with incredible students, a top-notch faculty, dedicated alumni, and a talented staff is the honor of a lifetime."Sheahon Zenger, Ph.D.
Zenger is an accomplished fundraiser, and as director of athletics at three institutions including UNH, he has personally raised in excess of $150 million in capital and major gifts while overseeing an additional $160 million in annual giving.
The son of two college professors, Zenger received his bachelor’s degree in English/secondary education from Kansas State University, where he also obtained a master’s degree in journalism and mass communications before earning his Ph.D. at the University of Kansas.
Kaplan said, “It has been an exhilarating experience serving the University of New Haven community. Thanks to the dedication of everyone across the university, we have accomplished a great deal and established what we believe is a strong foundation for continued success. I applaud the Board of Governors for its creative vision in designing this transition plan, and I believe Dr. Zenger is the ideal person to work with me in this new capacity. I have the utmost confidence he will do a terrific job helping to lead the university forward and that more great days lie ahead for the University of New Haven.”
“I am grateful for the trust of the Board of Governors and Steve Kaplan in giving me this opportunity to help lead an institution that I have come to love,” Zenger said. “I’ve been preparing all of my professional life for just such an opportunity, and to have it come at a university blessed with incredible students, a top-notch faculty, dedicated alumni, and a talented staff is the honor of a lifetime.”