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Ellen Neufeldt’s Lasting Contributions

We will soon say goodbye to a significant member of my administrative team who worked tenaciously to improve the lives of our students and their success rates.

Ellen Neufeldt joined Old Dominion in 2011 to be the University's first vice president for student engagement and enrollment services. Next month, she will leave ODU to become the fourth president of California State University San Marcos outside San Diego.

It is appropriate that you are reading this after our spring commencement exercises, where 3,500 students received degrees. In the past eight years, Dr. Neufeldt has transformed our initiatives for student success, cementing it as our No. 1 priority across the campus. The results have been significant. Old Dominion has reached record graduation and retention levels.

Two initiatives that Dr. Neufeldt helped launch illustrate her comprehensive approach to reaching students. Mane Connect, begun in 2016, is a one-on-one success-coaching program to help select freshmen get off to a strong start. The retention rate for 2017-18 freshmen in Mane Connect was 19 percent higher than for freshmen with similar characteristics who were not in the program.

In 2017, Old Dominion - in collaboration with George Mason University - created the Online Virginia Network, which offers adults a convenient way to finish their bachelor's degrees online. The network exceeded its enrollment goals by 178 percent in its first two years.

Dr. Neufeldt also has helped position Old Dominion as a leader in social mobility - the idea that a college education can raise the fortunes of low-income families for generations to come. Next month, her office is organizing Old Dominion's second national Social Mobility Symposium.

Because of her administrative success, her portfolio has grown to include government relations, as well as strategic communication and marketing, and Dr. Neufeldt has become an effective advocate for ODU in Richmond.

It's hard to come up with something she hasn't been involved in. Dr. Neufeldt has been co-leader of Old Dominion's strategic planning process. She's been active in the Women's Initiative Network, a mentorship program founded by First Lady Kate Broderick and Board of Visitors Treasurer Pamela Kirk that pairs successful businesswomen with female students.

And she's done it all with a burst of energy and enthusiasm, an infectious laugh and - most important - a commitment to caring and kindness.

We will soon move forward with a search for Dr. Neufeldt's successor, who will maintain our student-focused momentum. Meanwhile, I wish Dr. Neufeldt the best in California. I'm sure the students at Cal State San Marcos will thrive under her leadership as ours did.

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