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Mizzou Administrator Set to Become Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Dean of Students

Lehman Hall, located in Harvard Yard, is the student center of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
Lehman Hall, located in Harvard Yard, is the student center of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. By Julian J. Giordano
By Nia L. Orakwue and Claire Yuan, Crimson Staff Writers

University of Missouri Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Bill Stackman will become the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences’ new dean of students, Stackman confirmed in a Monday email to The Crimson.

Stackman’s selection concludes a monthslong search for the school’s next dean of students following the departure of Samuel H. Bersola in July 2022. Stackman is expected to succeed interim Dean of Students Sheila Thomas in July 2023, becoming the third person to fill the permanent position in just over three years.

The appointment has not yet been officially announced by the University, which declined to comment.

Stackman received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky and his doctorate in educational leadership from Boston University. Stackman has worked in higher education for 40 years, serving as associate vice president for student services at the University of Notre Dame, director of student activities at Texas A&M University, and dean of student affairs at Rhodes College, among other administrative roles at institutions of higher education.

In an email to the University of Missouri’s President’s Council — a group of student organization leaders — Sunday afternoon, Stackman announced that he would be stepping down from his post at Mizzou in July to serve as “Dean of Students at Harvard University.”

“This departure is totally unexpected and proved to be a very difficult decision,” he wrote.

In a subsequent email to The Crimson, Stackman clarified that he will be assuming the role of dean of students at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

In a message to faculty, University of Missouri President Mun Y. Choi thanked Stackman for his four years with the university.

“He has been a tireless advocate for our students, a collaborative partner in our academic success initiatives, has worked closely with our faculty and staff, and has helped the university achieve growth in student engagement and retention,” Choi wrote.

With a resume in higher education stretching back more than four decades, Stackman brings extensive experience to a role that has lacked stability in recent years. The position’s responsibilities have been performed by three different administrators in the three years following the departure of longtime GSAS Dean of Students Garth O. McCavana in 2020.

Bersola, Stackman’s predecessor, departed the role in July 2022 to “return to his family in Southern California,” according to an emailed statement from GSAS Dean Emma Dench at the time of his departure.

Bersola — the former assistant vice provost for graduate education at the University of California, Los Angeles — was referenced in a 2020 civil lawsuit against UCLA filed by Margaret Purnell, a former assistant dean in the university’s graduate division.

Purnell’s suit alleges pregnancy discrimination by UCLA’s administration during her employment there. In her complaint, Purnell alleged that Bersola made “inappropriate and insensitive comments regarding children,” which included “comparing the employees’ children to his dogs.” The complaint also claims that Bersola subsequently became critical of Purnell’s performance and was insensitive to her medical needs and requests for time off during her “high-risk” pregnancy.

In an order granting partial summary judgment, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Curtis A. Kin wrote that a “reasonable juror could find that Bersola trivializes childcare responsibilities” and that he was “biased against pregnant women and women who undergo childbirth.” The case is set to go before a jury on June 12.

Bersola did not respond to requests for comment. GSAS spokesperson Ann Hall pointed to the statement from Dench announcing Bersola’s departure but declined to comment on the ongoing lawsuit.

—Staff writer Nia L. Orakwue can be reached at nia.orakwue@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @nia_orakwue.

—Staff writer Claire Yuan can be reached at claire.yuan@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @claireyuan33.

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