IU Alumna Returns to Claim Title of Next Chancellor


Courtesy of University of Wisconsin-Parkside

Photo of Deborah Ford provided by University of Wisconsin – Parkside.

Gracie Vanover, Freelance Reporter

An Indiana University alumna and longtime college executive with Kentuckiana roots has been tapped as the next IUS chancellor.  

Deborah Ford, who has held the top job at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside since 2009, officially joins IUS on July 1, pending approval from the IU Board of Trustees.  

“The vision for IU Southeast is compelling,” said Ford. “I am honored to join the learning community as chancellor. The regional campuses serve a vital role in advancing education to students in communities throughout the state that is both attainable and affordable.”   

The 3,900-student regional campus in Kenosha County, Wisconsin – where she presides – is the most diverse of the 13 four-year institutions in the University of Wisconsin system. Ford increased the first- to second-year retention rate from 58% in 2010 to 74% in 2014, according to her resumé. She also has increased minority enrollment from 26% to 37% in 10 years. This helped Ford increase the six-year graduation rate for first-time, full-time undergraduates by 10 points in a decade.  

UW-Parkside traditionally serves first-generation students. Almost 60% of their graduates are the first in their families to earn a university degree, according to the school. Ford herself was also a first-generation student. 

Ford was one of two finalists to become chancellor. The other was interim Chancellor Kelly Ryan, another longtime college educator. Both appeared last month at a series of IUS student and employee town halls, during which each of them highlighted their qualifications and explained why they deserved support 

At least one student who was unable to attend Ford’s town hall still thought to mention that he found her credentials notable.  

“After reading her resumé, I was impressed with a few shocking statistics,” said accounting senior Canaan Clark. “One, being she graduated the most students during the pandemic. Another one was she grew diversity. I believe she has what it takes to bring change to the IUS campus and will bring brighter ideas to the table. I feel that with her as our chancellor, IUS has a bright future ahead.”   

Before joining UW-Parkside, Ford was vice president for student affairs at the University of West Florida and held the same position at Spalding University in Louisville. She earned a doctorate in educational administration and a bachelor’s in counseling and guidance from the University of Louisville, but she earned her master’s in education from IU. 

“She brings a wealth of knowledge and 14 years of experience leading a campus very similar to IU Southeast,” said Susan Sciame-Giesecke, IU vice president for regional campuses and online education, who led the search committee to hire a new chancellor. “I am excited that we were able to attract such an outstanding and proven leader. The campus is positioned well for the future.” 

Sciame-Giesecke added that Ford “is excited to return home to make a positive difference on the campus and in the area.” 

Not only are IU administrators, such as Sciame-Giesecke, excited about the future arrival of Ford, but so are some student leaders for campus programs.  

“We look forward to the future,” said IUS Student Government Association Vice President Dylan Mapp. “We at SGA look forward to working with Chancellor Ford in ensuring IUS has a supportive environment for students.” 

If IU trustees approve the hiring of Ford, it will end the annual leadership changes since IUS Chancellor Ray Wallace stepped down in 2021. After leading the campus for seven years, Wallace resigned amid poor health and died a few weeks later. IU East Chancellor Kathryn Girten became this campus’s acting executive until retiring last July, leaving Ryan to be the current interim chancellor.  

Upon her arrival, Ford plans to continue working closely with Sciame-Giesecke on advancing the IU 2030 Strategic Plan to build “student success at IU Southeast” and “strong community partnerships in southern Indiana and greater Louisville.”