On Monday (Jan. 9), Hendrix College named Dr. Karen Petersen to be the 13th President of Hendrix College, beginning in June 2023. Petersen will succeed Ellis Arnold, who will become President Emeritus following his retirement in June.
A Northwest Arkansas native, Petersen was selected following a comprehensive national search process involving Hendrix alumni, Board of Trustees members, faculty, staff, and students. She joins the Hendrix community from the University of Tulsa, where she is a professor of political science and Dean of the Henry Kendall College of Arts and Sciences.
She is the second woman to lead Hendrix as President, following Dr. Ann Die Hasselmo, who served from 1992 to 2001.
“We are thrilled to have Dr. Karen Petersen join our community and lead Hendrix into a new era of planning and progress,” said Jo Ann Biggs ’80, chair of the Hendrix College Board of Trustees and chair of the Presidential Search Committee.
As Dean of the Kendall College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Tulsa, Petersen oversees the college’s financial, physical, and human resources, including 120 full-time employees in 13 departments. During her tenure, philanthropic giving to the college increased, including a 47% increase in unrestricted giving.
She also helped to secure a significant unrestricted pledge for student recruiting, marketing, and faculty support, as well as annual funding for a partnership with the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra to provide educational opportunities for music students. Under Petersen’s leadership, TU restored academic programs in Philosophy and Religion and the Bachelor of Music degree.
“Not only does she bring successful experience in leading diverse, complex academic units, growing enrollment, improving student success, and securing support through fundraising and external partnerships, her passion for the transformative role of liberal arts education and her advocacy for the residential undergraduate liberal arts experience is inspiring,” said Biggs. “She finds immense joy in engaging with undergraduate students and connecting the work of the campus with the broader community, and she cares deeply about diversity, effective teaching, and shared governance. I am confident that she will be a tremendous ambassador and leader for the Hendrix community.”
Prior to joining the University of Tulsa, Petersen served for nearly 16 years at her undergraduate alma mater Middle Tennessee State University, a large regional comprehensive university in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Petersen earned her master’s degree and doctorate in political science from Vanderbilt University.
“I am honored and humbled to be selected as president of Hendrix College and look forward to serving alongside the caring and talented faculty, staff, and Board members as we continue Hendrix’s commitment to the life-changing power of a liberal arts education,” Dr. Petersen said. “We are privileged to educate the young people upon whose shoulders the responsibility for our future rests, and I am dedicated to strengthening and preserving the residential liberal arts experience because it is the best preparation for life in a free society.”