Karen Hunt Brought on as Vice President of Enrollment Management


Karen Hunt has been named Vice President of Enrollment Management at Luther College. (Photo Courtesy of luther.edu)

On February 7, Luther College officially announced that Karen Hunt, the previous Interim Enrollment Chief of Staff, would be stepping into the role of Vice President of Enrollment Management. This concluded a five month search for an appointee to the position, most recently held by former Vice President Derek Hartl. 


Hunt began her time here at Luther in the fall of 202, when she was brought on as a temporary employee until a more permanent person could be established as the new Vice President. While the search committee, led by President Jenifer K. Ward, looked into several different candidates, many on the team quickly took note of Hunt’s effective and natural leadership. 


“Hunt was brought onto the staff in an interim capacity, until we could find a suitable VP to take over the role,” search committee member and Director of International Admissions Jon Lund said. “We had the great opportunity to see firsthand how she interacted with both staff and others for two or three months. Every time we got together, I kept seeing her in that chair. It was like it was meant to be.” 


With no individual yet standing out to the search committee, a suggestion was made at the conclusion of the fall semester that Hunt be offered the role on an indefinite basis. President Ward supported the concept. 


“[Hunt] has a very non-anxious presence, she’s very pragmatic and direct, and she is at once entrepreneurial and realistic,” Ward said. “Those features together said to me, ‘why would we spend the entire time this year in limbo, when we have an excellent leader right here with us, already proving herself in our community?’”


While Hunt was hired for the interim position this past fall, most of her work was conducted remotely in order to maintain her residence in Springfield, Ohio. This meant she only had the occasional opportunity to visit the campus. However, she was instantly drawn to the Luther community, and became interested in pursuing a more lasting employment situation.


“Luther had always been on my radar as an ELCA Lutheran school, as I worked at its sister school, Wittenberg [University].” Hunt said. “I made two trips out last semester doing interim work, and absolutely fell in love with the campus. I mean–immediately. The quality of the campus, the great people I talked with, meeting some really awesome students and staff, the whole charming town of Decorah. I thought: ‘gosh, if I were a student looking for a college home, shoot, this is a beautiful place.’ I was really excited to work with everyone going forward.”


Prior to her tenure at Luther, Hunt spent the past two years working at Bethany College in West Virginia, where she served as the Vice President for Enrollment Management and Marketing and as a member of the Pandemic Response Team. During the course of her employment, she played a part in increasing student enrollment and retention. Before that, she spent over 25 years at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, where she acted in various admissions positions. Hunt earned her undergraduate communications degree from Wilmington College, and graduated with a master’s degree in science in college student personnel service from Miami University of Ohio in 1992. 


“I worked in the admissions office both as an undergraduate student, and then as a graduate student as well,” Hunt said. “I started off stuffing envelopes in the back room, and just kept working in admissions.”


Within that field of work, Hunt has been involved in the enrollment of more than 11,000 students across multiple institutions, and has generated approximately $85 million in first year student revenue over the course of her career. Such an accomplishment in the sphere of higher education enrollment made her a very attractive candidate for the interim enrollment chief of staff role. 


“Essentially, what I was doing was working with the staff in the admissions and financial aid offices and serving in a vice president capacity, without necessarily the same accountability, as it was a temporary situation,” Hunt said. “Through the course of our work together, the President and I grew a strong connection, and it seemed like a good fit on both sides. I have had a wonderful experience, and I have received incredibly positive feedback from colleagues and staff. It just seemed like a natural progression for us to continue working together.”


The only potential setback of Hunt’s promotion to the Vice Presidency was her location. Hunt desired to maintain her residence in Ohio, where her family is currently living. With the youngest two of her four children graduating from high school this year, Hunt was unwilling to disrupt their lives to move to an entirely new state. Ultimately, Hunt and President Ward came to a mutual understanding.


“This is one of the things we have learned from COVID-19; there are things we can do quite well virtually, and then there are things that we really need to do in person,” Ward said. “What I asked her to do when I offered her the role was to commit to being here, on average, about a week a month. Part of the reason that’s so important to me is–while it’s true that there are many tasks we can do remotely–a big part of our job at this institution is to contribute to a dynamic and activated campus culture. That’s hard to do when Zooming.”


Hunt will split her time between Luther and Ohio, with her flying in for different admissions and financial aid events and activities, as well as key moments for the campus community in general. There was initially some doubt over whether or not such an arrangement would be beneficial for the various offices Hunt will be supervising, but Lund feels that her qualifications and temperament supersedes any uncertainty. 


“She’s a good reflection of the Luther ethos,” Lund said. “The Luther I know sets high expectations for its members, but it does it in a way that is unpretentious, and I would say that’s [Hunt]. Do I wish we had a VP that was on campus? Absolutely. But do I think that what we need even more is a really competent VP? The answer is yes, and I think in [Hunt] we have it.”


In her role as Vice President of Enrollment Management, Hunt will oversee the offices of admissions and international admissions, as well as the financial aid office. She will help to coordinate the efforts of the college to recruit students for incoming classes, including managing outreach efforts and leading initiatives to establish a new approach for garnering the optimal number of applicants. 


“There is a lot of work to be done, and that’s one of the things I am excited about,” Hunt said. “I love having this new challenge, working for a school I so believe in, and absolutely believe is an easy sell. I want to help students find their way to the right campus home, and for so many, I think the Luther experience might be it.”