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President Dr. Victoria N. Folse in front of Lane LibraryRIPON, Wis. — The Ripon College Board of Trustees has announced the unanimous selection of Dr. Victoria N. Folse as the institution’s 14th president. Folse will succeed Zach Messitte, who announced his resignation from Ripon in September 2021.
Folse will be the first woman to be formally inaugurated as president of Ripon College since its founding in 1851. The current interim president, Dr. Andrea N. Young, has been appointed the next vice president for finance and administration as well as chief financial officer at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana.

Folse, a respected scholar and administrator, brings to Ripon more than 30 years of experience in higher education and a long-standing commitment to the liberal arts. She has served as the director and endowed chair of the School of Nursing and Health Sciences at Illinois Wesleyan University since 2009 and executive director of Counseling and Health Services since 2019. She also has served as interim director of the School of Music and continues to teach and conduct research in the School of Nursing. Executive leadership roles in both Academic and Student Affairs have prioritized a shared governance model with faculty, staff, and students.

“We’re very pleased to have Victoria Folse as the 14th president,” said Tom Abendroth ’81, chair of the Ripon College Board of Trustees. “She’s demonstrated a passion for the liberal arts and sees the importance of its influence in all areas of study, including professional and pre-professional programming. She is detail-oriented, very thorough and seeks deep understanding. She has proven herself as someone who takes on challenges and rises to the occasion.”

Folse said, “I’m excited to join the Ripon team. I am honored and awed at the foundation that I’m inheriting and will lead into the future. One of the things that attracted me to Ripon was knowing the impact that I could have as part of a high performing team, influencing the experiences students, parents and alumni have as they stay connected to the College.

“What intrigues me about Ripon is the commitment to the liberal arts core and the capacity to make an impact on social mobility. As a first-generation college student myself, I see the opportunity to contribute to the next generation of Ripon graduates.”

The Board of Trustees confirmed Folse’s appointment after a seven-month, nationwide search led by a distinguished roster of trustees, faculty, staff, students, alumni and community members. Folse stood out amongst a highly accomplished group of candidates with diverse backgrounds and experiences. Russell Reynolds Associates provided executive search services.

“The committee was very impressed with her energy and intellect,” said Trustee Mark Franzen ’83, chair of the Presidential Search Committee. “She was extremely well-prepared and thoughtful through the entire process. She cares about the liberal arts and understands the new realities and challenges. She is prepared to lead the liberal arts and this institution into the future.”

Professor of History Rebecca Matzke, associate dean of academic affairs and a member of the search committee, said, “Victoria N. Folse is energetic but also thoughtful. The success she found leading very different programs – nursing and music – truly speaks to her leadership skills. She is dedicated to the principles of the liberal arts and has interesting ideas about directions Ripon can go in that build on our current strengths while keeping us true to ourselves.”

In the School of Nursing at Illinois Wesleyan, Folse oversees an annual budget of $1.7 million. She led a successful $2 million campaign and oversaw renovation of classroom and laboratory facilities. She doubled student enrollment with emphasis on diversity and retention of at-risk students and hired diverse faculty to mirror the student population.

In addition, Folse stewarded curricular revision and accreditation, implemented a semester-long study abroad program for nursing, and developed an interdisciplinary public health program including a minor that launched in the fall of 2021.

As executive director of Counseling and Health Services, she led the university’s health and safety response to the COVID-19 pandemic; oversaw the transition to telehealth and telecounseling to promote campus physical and mental health; monitored campus educational and programming needs; and prioritized diversity hires to assure representation as search chairperson for counselors.

Student viewpoints were also represented on the search committee by Jacqueline Hanson ’23 of Deforest, Wisconsin. “One of the great things about Victoria Folse is that she’s extremely adaptable,” Hanson said. “She jumps into things a little out of her field of comfort and takes them in stride. I also really admired that she is a woman who knows what she wants. She has a strong personality and is willing to learn. It’s cool she will be our first female president. Representation is important.”

Folse earned her bachelor of science in nursing from Illinois Wesleyan, a master of science in psychiatric nursing from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and a Ph.D. in nursing with a concentration in research from Saint Louis University.

She is a licensed clinical nurse specialist in adult psychiatric nursing, an advanced practice registered nurse and a licensed clinical professional counselor.

Also an active scholar, researcher, international lecturer and consultant, she has expertise in areas such as eating disorders, suicide risk, self concept, sexuality, drugs and alcohol, interprofessional communication, leadership, and quality and safety in healthcare.

“My interest in being a college president really has to do with building, growing and establishing a sense of community,” Folse said. “All the decisions I make are student-centered. I believe, as president, I can have an impact on the undergraduate student experience and I want to be actively involved in the students’ lives. I can’t wait to attend concerts, theater productions, sporting events, research presentations, and visit with students, faculty and staff, making this community my home.”

She plans to move into 1 Merriman Lane with her husband, Dick, this summer and will officially assume the presidency July 1.