Sharon Wilson-Taylor named Mark Kelly’s successor, college scraps national search plan


Erin Brown

Sharon Wilson-Taylor was announced as vice president of Student Affairs in a Sept. 7 email from President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim. 

After serving as interim vice president of Student Success for  two months, Sharon Wilson-Taylor was named the permanent vice president of Student Affairs Sept. 7, according to an email sent to faculty and staff by President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim. 

Wilson-Taylor was appointed as a temporary replacement for Mark Kelly, former vice president of Student Success, after he left the college to serve as commissioner of the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, as reported July 20 by The Chronicle. 

The position’s former title, vice president of Student Success—a change Kim originally made in 2013 when Kelly held the position—is now switching back to vice president of Student Affairs. According to Kim, the change is meant to recognize that many factors fall under student success, including academics and economics.

Wilson-Taylor, who has worked at the college for 26 years, holds a doctorate in Education from Loyola University Chicago, a master’s degree in Education from Roosevelt University, a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Illinois State University. 

Prior to her new position, Wilson-Taylor served as associate vice president and Dean of Students.

According to Kim’s email, Wilson-Taylor “has a proven track record in improving student retention and engagement beyond the classroom and implementing programs that enhance and strengthen the college’s academic goals.”

“We were very fortunate to have someone with Sharon’s experience and knowledge already here,” Kim said. “It’s one of those weird situations where we were able to take advantage of a fortunate circumstance.”

According to a July 7 email sent to faculty and staff from Kim, the college was due to start a national search for this position in Fall 2016. However, Kim told The Chronicle the search was tabled after he realized last month that Wilson-Taylor was the right candidate for the job, emphasizing that the decision to do so was not financially motivated. 

“I started the process of thinking about a search and then I realized, ‘I don’t need to do a search. I have the right person here,’” Kim said.

Wilson-Taylor said she is excited about moving forward in her “dream job” and has plans for initiatives outside the classroom including retaining students, helping them transition to the professional world and working with academic partners.

“I’m truly looking forward to working with Dr. Kim, the staff in Student Affairs and the students,” Wilson-Taylor said. “We are at a really good place in the college as far as the student experience, and I just hope to move that forward.”

 Kelly said he and Wilson-Taylor were a great team during their time working together. He described Wilson-Taylor as a wise, intellectual and integral person. 

“I’m thrilled to hear the news and know she will perform at an incredible high level,” Kelly said. “She brings the same drive, passion and intellect and she’ll do it in her way—as she should.” 

Wilson-Taylor will be responsible for deciding whether her former position, vice president and Dean of Students, is still necessary to the college, Kim said. If so, she will decide how to go about finding her former’s position replacement.

Wilson-Taylor, who worked closely with Kelly during his 32 years at Columbia, said she does not feel pressured to emulate him because they are different individuals.

“Mark [Kelly] always said to me, ‘You’ll do this job differently than I will do it,’” she said. “‘You have to be always try to be yourself and not try to fill other people’s shoes.’”

Kim said it is important for Wilson-Taylor to find her own path in the college according to her experience, voice and personality.

“Understanding where we wanted to go and what [I] wanted for the students, [her appointment] just seemed like a natural fit,” Kim said.