Dr. Connie J. Gores became the Ninth President of Southwest Minnesota State University on July 1, 2013.
Dr. Gores has devoted her career to higher education and its ability to transform lives. A native of the Central Plains, she grew up in Cando, North Dakota and knows firsthand the transformative power of higher education. Making a difference and changing lives are the guiding tenets of her presidency at Southwest Minnesota State University.
Her leadership in higher education and student success led to her appointment as Convener of the Student Success Team for MnSCU’s Charting the Future endeavor. She serves as Chair of the Women’s Network Executive Council, a national committee of the American Council on Education (ACE). She also serves on the Board of the Minnesota Campus Compact, an organization that supports civic engagement, leadership and democratic renewal through its diverse network of colleges and universities. Locally Dr. Gores represents SMSU on the Southwest Minnesota Workforce Council. She is a founding board member of the Jared P. Stene Student Leadership Scholarship Board and was instrumental in garnering grants for a number of programs focused on access to higher education for women and minorities in different regions around the country.
Her passion and commitment to leadership, particularly for women in higher education, make her an inspiring speaker on campus and around the country. Dr. Gores is a featured presenter at American Council on Education (ACE) National and Regional Leadership Forums on the topics of effective leadership, assessing student learning, campus crises, and succession planning. She has also taught a number of classes, including Introduction to Higher Education.
Drawing on her experience as a leader in crisis management, Dr. Gores wrote a chapter “Courage, Compassion, Communication” for the book Managing the Unthinkable: Crisis Preparation and Response for Campus Leaders released in March 2014. The book includes essays by 18 presidents and other senior leaders in higher education to provide honest advice for managing crises on a university campus. She has also co-authored a case study on crisis leadership with the Harvard University Kennedy School and the Harvard University Graduate School of Education and presented at the inaugural institute on Crisis Leadership in Higher Education at Harvard University.
Dr. Gores has a deep and enduring commitment to shared governance and inclusive leadership practices. Her dissertation research focused on disciplinary cultures within higher education and faculty participation in decision making.
She is a graduate of the Institute for Educational Management (IEM) at Harvard University and participated in the American Academic Leadership Institute (AALI) Executive Leadership Program as well as the Minnesota Partnership for Executive Leadership Development Program.
Dr. Gores serves as a peer evaluator for the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association and has served on teams for the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges.
Throughout her own education, she has embraced academic excellence, student-centered learning, community engagement, and meaningful partnerships. Dr. Gores earned her Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, Higher Education Administration from the University of Washington; her M.Ed. in College Student Personnel Administration from Colorado State University; and her B.A. in Sociology from North Dakota State University.
Prior to her appointment at SMSU, she served in a number of public and private colleges and universities including Winona State University, Randolph-Macon Woman’s College, Cornish College of the Arts, Willamette University College of Law, and Portland State University. Her consulting roles have included projects on strategic enrollment management, retention, and developing effective communications at such institutions as the University of Wisconsin-Superior, Minneapolis Community and Technical College, Longwood University, Randolph-Macon College, and Sierra Nevada College.
Since joining SMSU in July of 2013, Dr. Gores has been tireless in her engagement with the community, faculty, students, and the entire campus. She believes in the importance of active and collaborative learning to foster intellectual achievement and professional success, in addition to empowering students with a sense of personal and social responsibility, the confidence to lead, and the desire to implement change.
Dr. Gores is committed to the mission of SMSU as well as the philosophy of the NCAA Division II athletics. Dr. Gores is proud of the opportunities SMSU student-athletes have to compete at a high level of competition on the field while exceling in the classroom and fully engaging in the entire campus experience. This student-athlete balance recognizes academic success, athletic contributions, as well as campus and community involvement. The balance of student and athlete is at the heart of the Division II philosophy and at the heart of Mustang Athletics.
Dr. Gores has two daughters, Tempa Klinegores Peters, who is married to Austin Peters and lives in Lynchburg, Virginia, and Kasha Klinegores, Academic Advisor/Instructor at George Washington University in Washington, DC. In October 2013, Dr. Gores welcomed her first grandchild, Stuart and most recently on July 25th welcomed her granddaughter, Avery. According to ‘Nana’—both grandchildren are special and clearly above average.