College cancels national search plans, appoints Sharon Wilson-Taylor as Mark Kelly’s successor


G-Jun Yam

Sharon Wilson-Taylor. associate vice president and dean of student at Columbia College Chicago.

Sharon Wilson-Taylor was named vice president of Student Affairs Sept. 7, after 26 years at the college that included briefly serving as interim vice president of Student Success, according to an email sent by President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim.

As reported July 20 by The Chronicle, Wilson-Taylor was appointed 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.

Kim said changing the position’s former title of vice president of Student Success back to vice president of Student Affairs—originally changed by Kim in 2013 when Kelly held the position—was a recognition that many experiences fall under student success, including academics and economics.

Wilson-Taylor holds a doctorate in education from Loyola University, a master’s degree in education from Roosevelt University, and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Illinois State University.

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 by 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.

“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.

Kim emphasized the decision was not financially motivated.

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.”

Wilson-Taylor will be responsible for deciding whether her former position, Associate Provost and Dean of Students, is still necessary to the college. If so, she will decide how to go about finding her 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, ‘Sharon, you’ll do this job differently than I will do it,'” she said. “‘You have to 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 of the college, [her appointment] just seemed like a natural fit,” Kim said.