FB Pixel Code

On April 19, Alicia LaMagdeleine wrote:

Since 2020, University has undergone rapid change. We moved classes online, brought them back on campus in a hybrid model, changed our daily schedule three times, grew our faculty, and hit our full enrollment capacity. But through all that, our goal—to provide a premier college preparatory experience and be a thought leader in student-centered education—has not changed. As we prepare to enter our 25th year this fall, the heart of the school still beats with the same passion and spirit it had in August of 2000.

Earlier this year, I revealed the core aspects of University’s Strategic Plan, as well as several key initiatives we will pursue to achieve our goals. Two of those initiatives are to create a staffing model at our current enrollment that ensures continual student and teacher growth and to create a strong pipeline of future leaders of the school with specific action plans to accelerate their development. As part of our work in these areas, I met with several faculty and staff interested in leadership, and am excited to announce the following changes to begin in the 2024-25 school year.

Jamie-MacDougallStarting this summer, Jamie MacDougall will join the senior administrative team as an Assistant Head of School. In addition to being an outstanding educator, Jamie spent eight years in leadership as the Head of Middle School at Sycamore School in Indianapolis before joining our faculty in 2019. During her time here, Jamie has participated in and co-led a large portion of our work on teaching and learning post-COVID. While her focus in this new role will primarily be faculty development, Jamie will work closely with Associate Head of School Dave Vesper, Assistant Head of School Stacey Summitt-Mann, and me on all daily operations of the school. While she will continue to teach an English class or two, Jamie is excited to return to independent school leadership. “Thinking strategically about educational programming is one of my favorite things to do! I am excited to continue partnering with students, faculty, and the community to build more of the innovative and engaged educational experiences we have grown to love and be inspired by at University.” Jamie will be supported by a Teaching and Learning committee that includes Teaching and Learning Coordinator Erica Posthuma, English Instructor Erica Gray, Math Instructor Andra Edgell, and Art/Science Instructor Luke Crawley.

Jake-Thurman-Dean-of-StudentsJake Thurman, our Dean of Students, will reduce his teaching responsibilities in order to focus on the student experience outside the classroom. In addition to continuing to facilitate Stewardship Council and Community Meetings, Jake will spend more time in collaboration with administrators to develop and enhance our core values-based curriculum through experiences like Freshmen Retreat, Seminar Days, and Community Days. He will also help lead several strategic initiatives around student leadership development. Jake will continue to teach two sections of Social Studies, and as he says, “while I’m sad to be in the classroom less, I’m very excited for the opportunity to engage and empower students in our community to live the values of this place and get the absolute most out of their experience at University.”

Justin-BlandingAiding Jake in his work will be Justin Blanding, who will shift from being Director of Diversity and Equity to become our Assistant Dean of Students. Justin says, “I am extremely excited to serve as Assistant Dean of Students. This affords me the opportunity to work with and guide students outside of the classroom and basketball court. I am honored to have been chosen to help bring experience, leadership, and discipline to our students. I am looking forward to teaching and preparing our students for the next phase of their lives while being a voice for them.” Justin will specifically spend time on our restorative justice practices and on reviving our discipline committee process. These are areas Justin has worked in at his previous schools, and he will continue to bring a DEI lens to our student work.

Jannie-Kim-Math-TeacherFinally, Jannie Kim will become our new Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. In addition to her background in math, Jannie holds a master’s in intercultural studies from Biola University and serves as our Asian American and Pacific Islander affinity group sponsor. Jannie is grateful for the chance to help our school in new ways. “The opportunity to step into the DEI coordinator role in a school and community I love feels like a gift to me. DEI work is a deep passion for me, and that passion is fueled by the belief that everyone deserves to be seen, heard, valued, and empowered. I am excited to work with all the people in this place who share this commitment, and I want to do my part to help University be a place where differences are always valued, systemic barriers are addressed, and every person in the building has the opportunity to thrive in a safe, inclusive, and equitable environment.” In this role, Jannie will continue to work with our student affinity groups and will also help with faculty development around DEI issues. Jake, Justin, and Jannie will be supported by a Student Affairs committee that includes Service-Learning Coordinator Melissa Caraher (’10), Social Studies Instructor Brett Krieble, and Music Instructor Daniel Knox.

To account for the associated load changes, we will be hiring for a full-time Social Studies/English Instructor to join our faculty in the fall.

Getting to lead and learn at University is an amazing thing because of the people who create our school each day. I am honored to be a part of such a talented, compassionate, and purpose-driven faculty and staff. Please join me in congratulating Jamie, Jake, Justin, and Jannie on their new roles and responsibilities. I am excited to see how they continue to impact our community.

On May 3, 2024, Alicia wrote:

Two weeks ago, I wrote to announce several leadership changes designed in support of University’s strategic plan. We have now finalized two additional changes that will help us continue to provide an outstanding experience for our students both in and out of the classroom.

John-Walls-Athletic-DirectorTwo areas of the school that have seen the most growth in the last twenty years are our athletic program and our physical plant. Since 2009, John Walls has managed all aspects of athletics, facilities, and transportation. He, along with Rhonda Walls, has laid the foundation and the infrastructure that has taken our athletic program from small beginnings to an inclusive and competitive program that this year alone served 314 athletes across 17 sports. His work on our facilities, including the development of outdoor student spaces and the renovations of the Webster House, as well as general upkeep and maintenance, have provided room for the school to grow to its current enrollment.

The school is now large enough that it needs separate, dedicated personnel to focus on athletics and facilities. I am pleased to announce that John will be transitioning to our new Director of Facilities and Transportation for the 2024-25 school year. In this role, John will continue to oversee all aspects of our physical plant and van fleet, and he will also work alongside Stacey Summitt-Mann to develop a long-term facilities plan that accounts for replacement, renovation, and growth of our campus. He will also continue to support University athletics in his new capacity and will remain an amazing Trailblazer sports fan. I congratulate John on all he has accomplished and look forward to working with him in this new role.

I am also pleased to announce that English Instructor Wes Priest will become our new Director of Athletics. Wes has been a member of the English department at University for the past 19 years and was our head boys soccer coach from 2006-2020. Outside of University, Wes has been highly involved as a coach and director in several soccer programs, including Dynamo, the Indiana Fire Academy, and Butler University. As a player, Wes was a member of Indiana University’s 1988 NCAA Division I Men’s Championship team. He brings a wealth of experience in coach and player development to this role, and I am confident Wes will continue to grow our athletic programming and foster the connection between athletics and the other aspects of the school. Wes says, “I am incredibly excited about this new challenge and opportunity to do something I love in a place I love with people that I love and respect. The work that John Walls has done as Director of Athletics, and the legacy he leaves, are things that I will aspire to and continue.”

Assistant Athletic Director Rhonda Walls will continue her role in the department, and we have posted an English teaching position to account for Wes’s transition. We will also be posting an additional support position in athletics in the coming weeks. Please join me in congratulating John and Wes on their new positions.

Alicia LaMagdeleine
Head of School