August 27, 2008

Peter Gitau named associate vice chancellor

by Christi Mathis


CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Peter Gitau is Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s new associate vice chancellor for student affairs/dean of students, pending ratification by the SIU Board of Trustees.

Chosen from a field of 45 applicants, Gitau will begin his new post Tuesday, Sept. 2. Gitau’s extensive experience, enthusiasm and engaging personality quickly made him the favorite for the position, according to Larry H. Dietz, vice chancellor for student affairs.

“When we reviewed the evaluations and checked his references on and off the list, everybody really had good things to say about Dr. Gitau,” Dietz said. “He’s the only person who had been a senior student affairs administrator, he’s got public and private university experience and the most impressive credentials in terms of supervisory experience.”

Gitau fills a position that’s been vacant since Jean Paratore’s retirement in December 2003. Dietz has handled the supervisory role for various offices since the initial search closed. Reporting to Gitau now will be Student Development, Disability Support Services, Judicial Affairs, Career Services, Student Legal Assistance, Rainbow’s End Child Development Program and the Counseling Center. He’ll also chair the Campus Life Safety Committee.

Self-described as “mission driven” with “out of the box thinking and decision-making,” Gitau said he’s anxious to make a contribution to SIUC.

“It’s a very good campus,” Gitau said. “I’ve been in small private universities for the last seven years and I’m anxious to get back to a large, public university.”

The warmer Southern Illinois weather was one attraction, Gitau added with a chuckle. But, he said he believes his experience will enable him to work well with others at SIUC to enhance the University’s programs and services. He said he’s “passionate” about a number of areas, including student retention, diversity, creative programming and working with students, faculty, staff and administrators to see what’s happening now and how all can work together to make it even better.

He said creative programming with international studies can assure a strong international population and he wants to work closely with the study abroad program in conjunction with international studies. He said the first-year experience program and similar efforts are critical in the student retention puzzle and he looks forward to cohesive campus-wide efforts since the issue “touches almost everybody.” Gitau said sometimes, with regard to judicial affairs and other services, it’s important to work with students to “bring them on board to realize what’s there for them and how it can benefit them.”

Gitau’s most recent position was as dean of student life at the University of Dubuque, Iowa. In addition to serving on the president’s cabinet, supervising numerous student affairs departments and chairing the Dubuque Diversity task force, he supervised the student judicial process, and served as a professor for cross-cultural studies and worldview classes. He was the designated school official for international students’ admissions and immigration compliance, served on the academic council and handled numerous other administrative and supervisory duties.

Hired there in 2006, his accomplishments included initiating a university-wide early alert retention program, revising and clarifying the student code of conduct, development of a student judicial board including student and faculty advisers, and reorganizing and expanding the student life division.

Gitau’s eclectic background and extensive experience are a plus for SIUC, Dietz said. He noted that Gitau was born and raised in Kenya, bringing personal experience in international affairs to the University and he said he also has first-hand familiarity with first-year experience programs. Moreover, Dietz said Gitau is “very friendly. He has a very warm personality. You get that feeling immediately when you meet him. He’s a solid professional with good credentials. He will bring added depth to the institution.”

Prior to 2006, Gitau was executive assistant to the president for diversity and director of multicultural affairs at Manchester College in Indiana from 2001 to 2006. Before that, he spent three years as principal of Veritas Christian School in Lawrence, Kan. From 1996 to 1998, he was a foreign language instructor at the University of Kansas at Lawrence and held a parallel appointment with the university’s office of multicultural affairs.

He also was a graduate assistant in the department of educational administration at Eastern Illinois University, a high school teacher and administrator, and Presbyterian youth chairman in a church in East Africa, Kenya. Gitau is also the founder and executive director of TMKC (Teach My Kenyan Children), an international non-profit organization whose goal is fostering development through education in Africa.

A native of Kenya, Gitau earned his bachelor’s degree in secondary education in 1989 at Kenyatta University in Nairobi, Kenya, and his master’s in educational administration in 1996 from Eastern Illinois University in Charleston. He earned his doctorate in higher education policy and administration with a minor in public administration in 2000 at the University of Kansas at Lawrence.

Gitau is married and the father of three.