Susan Koch, who took over the top role at the University of Illinois Springfield in 2011, announced Friday she will retire effective June 30. She said she wants to spend more time with family.
“It is a bittersweet decision. I love the chancellor role and it’s been an absolute delight to work with students and faculty, staff, donors and members of the community,” Koch said. “But you come to a point in your life where you start thinking about some other things.”
Koch is the longest serving chancellor in the University of Illinois system and the 6th chief executive in the 50 year history of the campus, which was previously known as Sangamon State University. She and husband Dennis are also involved in agribusiness. Her husband raises and shows purebred Angus cattle.
During her tenure, the school has added numerous programs including a bachelor of science in nursing partnership with the University of Illinois at Chicago and Memorial Health System. Others focus on information systems security, data analytics, theater and exercise science.
The campus has also changed physically with the centerpiece being a new Student Union. Athletics moved up to compete in Division II and new teams were added. UIS also acquired Innovate Springfield, the social innovation and business incubator in downtown Springfield, which became the first hub in the Illinois Innovation Network.
“UIS has been on a growth trajectory for many years,” Koch said. “I’m very happy with where we are right now and where we’re headed in the future.”
UIS is ranked the top regional public university in Illinois, according to U.S. News & World Report.
The Chancellor’s announcement comes at the same time there is discussion of UIS acquiring more of a downtown presence. Various plans and locations have been floated. Koch said she anticipates more news coming in the near future.
Koch came to UIS from Northern Michigan University, where she was provost and vice president for academic affairs. She began her career as a professor of community and public health at Northern Iowa University.
She said priorities for the university in coming years will likely continue to be growing in visibility and reputation. And boosting enrollment numbers is also key. Fall enrollment was down 6 percent, despite a larger freshman class. Koch said applications are up for next school year.
“Part of the problem is the outflow of students from Illinois that all the universities are facing. We have to work hard to communicate to students in every way that our state universities are a good place to pursue your education,” Koch added. “It’s a challenging environment, there’s no doubt about it. But I think UIS is well positioned to meet that challenge.”
Koch’s time at UIS has also been marked by disagreements with labor, including the faculty union. Last fall, a faculty survey found a lack of confidence in the administration amid criticism over a lack of transparency in decision-making, including those related to finances.
“We want to make sure everyone feels valued here. That includes faculty, that includes staff and that includes students. I’m certainly committed to that and will continue to be until my last day,” she said.
Koch said she will likely call Springfield home for a while, but expects a move closer to family in the future.
University of Illinois President Tim Killeen praised the outgoing chancellor. “Susan’s leadership and persistence have enriched UIS’ academic excellence, provided new opportunities for students, expanded and beautified the campus and laid the groundwork to do even more. I am grateful for her commitment, her friendship and I wish her and Dennis nothing but happiness in their much-deserved retirement.”
Killeen, in a prepared statement, said there will be a timely and transparent leadership transition process.
“There’s a way that universities do this. I will be engaged with him in the coming weeks and months,” Koch said.