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Academic Spotlight: Dr. Jennifer Varney, Executive VP of Academic Effectiveness

SNHU's executive vice president of academic effectiveness Jennifer Varney.Dr. Jennifer Varney has held many roles at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) — including alumna. Varney earned her master’s degree in business education when the school was called New Hampshire College. Now the executive vice president of Academic Effectiveness, Varney recently answered questions about her professional background, how she connects with students and more.

Can you tell us about your professional background? 

I started my career in the hospitality industry with positions in corporate food service management, restaurant management and catering management. After earning an master’s in business education from New Hampshire College (now SNHU), I transitioned into higher education, first as an adjunct instructor and then full time in academic advising.

My journey brought me back to SNHU in 2008, where I was the only academic advisor for online graduate students. I was fortunate to have several leadership roles in advising at SNHU before transitioning to the Global Campus academic team where my positions were assistant dean, associate dean, senior associate dean and now executive director.

In 2016 I earned a PhD in Organizational Leadership, and in 2022, a Six Sigma Black Belt. In addition to my work at SNHU, I am a member of the Baccalaureate/Graduate Board of Commissioners for the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP), who accredits many of SNHU’s business programs.

What first drew you to higher education? 

I had not considered working in higher education until I took an education elective as part of an MBA program. This course helped me realize that education was where I wanted to be, so I quickly changed my major and pursued adjunct instructor positions upon graduation.

What aspects of your own education have been influential in shaping your career in academia? 

I completed my master’s and doctorate degrees as an adult learner, which helped me identify with the needs of this population of students. I recall writing papers with an infant in my lap, trying to do research in the library while my toddler was running all over the place, and working extra shifts to make up for the time I took to attend classes.

When working with students, I recall how challenging these experiences were, which helps me to better support and empathize with the challenges our learners face.

What attracted you to this field of study? What keeps you excited about it? 

I love learning about leadership. The field is always evolving and there is no point in which a leader can assume they have all the knowledge they will ever need. With the complexity and speed of today’s organizations, it seems effective leadership is a key component of success and effectiveness.

How have you found ways to effectively connect with students? 

My favorite way to connect with students is in the classes that I teach. Students have a wealth of experiences and in every course, I find that I always learn something from my students.

What brings you the greatest joy in your work as an executive vice president? 

Supporting my team, getting them the resources they need, removing obstacles where possible and then getting out of the way. I am beyond fortunate to work with an amazing group of highly talented, passionate and committed team members.

What do you feel is unique about the faculty and students you work with? 

Our faculty join SNHU because they believe in the mission and want to be a part of it. This is the key to our culture and commitment to supporting our students and helping them achieve their goals.

What does SNHU’s mission to transform the lives of learners mean to you? 

I am honored to be a part of SNHU’s mission. Transforming the lives of learners means helping to make a positive impact that will last a lifetime and into future generations.

Outside of work, what’s something you’re passionate about or really enjoy doing? 

I am an avid hiker who tries to spend time in the forest every week. I have been hiking for over 15 years and some of my favorite hiking destinations include Utah, the California Sierras and anyplace in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

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Joe Cote is a staff writer at Southern New Hampshire University. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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