SHANE B. SMEED
Shane B. Smeed was appointed president effective January 2022, having been interim president since December 2020. Before his recent appointment, Smeed served as Park’s vice president and chief operating officer. In that role, Smeed provided strategic and tactical leadership to more than half of the University’s staff in the areas of enrollment management, student success, financial aid services, marketing, student engagement, athletics and campus center operations. In addition, he was responsible for approximately 16,000 students annually, including 10,000 active duty, National Guard, reserve, veteran and military family member students.
The son of a university administrator, Smeed always knew he wanted to work in higher education. Smeed came to Park University in 2015, attracted by the diversity of its student body and its Kansas City metropolitan area location. When he first stepped foot on the picturesque flagship Parkville (Mo.) Campus, he stood next to historic Mackay Hall and looked over the campus and the city. Instantly, he knew Park would become his professional home.
Smeed maintains a strong commitment to a “Park United” and leading a University that celebrates diversity, serves a growing student body and earns recognition from its faculty and staff as an employer of choice. Smeed believes that Park’s motto, Fides et Labor (Latin for faith and work), can inspire students, faculty and staff to achieve all their goals.
Smeed has more than 20 years of progressive experience in higher education. Smeed earned a Master of Arts degree in Higher Education and Student Affairs Administration from Saint Louis University and a Master of Business degree from Keller Graduate School of Management.
Smeed has played a volunteer leadership role with several Kansas City area organizations. He currently serves on the board of directors of the Kansas City Area Development Council and the Command and General Staff College Foundation. He previously served as an appointed planning and zoning commissioner for the City of Parkville. Smeed and his wife, Angela, have three children: Samantha, 20, Andrew, 18, and Landon, 14.
Chief Strategic Communications Officer
Erik Bergrud’s life was transformed by his experience as a Park University graduate public affairs student. During that time, he embraced the concept of serving others and applied it to his career, as well as to local, national and international volunteer pursuits. As Park’s chief strategic communications officer, he conceives, implements, evaluates and refines strategic communications to support and advance the institution’s goals and priorities. He also stewards the public face of the institution, oversees constituent-based communications, and advises members of the University community on communications strategy and opportunities.
Bergrud has garnered the respect and trust of his colleagues across the country, having been elected a fellow of the Congressionally-chartered National Academy of Public Administration and president of the American Society for Public Administration. In 2008, he co-edited the book, Civic Engagement in a Network Society. He has given significant time to several Kansas City civic organizations. Bergrud is chair of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s Missouri State Affairs Committee, a past chair of the Parkville (Mo.) Economic Development Council, and a past president of Kansas City’s International Relations Council.
Bergrud and his wife, Kimberlee, are actively involved in Kansas City philanthropic causes. They have co-chaired events for the Kansas City Ballet, reStart and the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault. He also serves as a public address/broadcast announcer for Park University soccer, Parkville community events, the Kansas City Comets (Major Arena Soccer League) and the KC Courage (United Women’s Soccer).
Bergrud earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology from the University of Kansas and a Master of Public Affairs degree with an emphasis in government-business relations from Park University. He also completed the Council of Independent Colleges’ Senior Leadership Academy and the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s Centurions Leadership Program. Bergrud received the Park Student Government Association’s 2017-18 Tipton Award for alumni service to the University and the 2019 Park University Department of Athletics Donald J. Breckon Lifetime Achievement Award.
Park Gilbert, Vice President
Yira Brimage was appointed vice president of Park University’s Gilbert Campus in November 2021. In her role as vice president, Brimage holds the top leadership position for the University’s Gilbert Campus and is responsible for leading the strategic growth and operations of the campus. Most recently, Brimage has been the principal and owner of Brimage Consulting in Tucson, Ariz., which specializes in working with educational, health care and small businesses to prepare their workforces with competency-based skill development.
Brimage is not a stranger to higher education in Arizona. For nearly four years (August 2014 to June 2018) she served as vice president of student affairs and engagement at Pima Community College’s downtown campus in Tucson. She also served a variety of roles with Maricopa Community Colleges for 14 years, including vice president of student affairs at Phoenix College from 2010-14, and associate dean of enrollment services (2000-05), dean of student affairs (2005-09) and acting vice president of student affairs (2009-10) at Scottsdale Community College. Brimage began her career in higher education at Arizona State University, serving nine years in undergraduate admissions for various campuses, as well as in student affairs for the ASU East (now Polytechnic) Campus.
Brimage is working to earn her Doctorate of Education degree in educational leadership from Northern Arizona University (expected to graduate in Spring 2022), following the completion and successful defense of her dissertation on “Latina Leadership in Community College.” She earned a Master of Education degree in educational leadership and policy studies from NAU and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish and communications from ASU.
LAURE A. CHRISTENSEN
Chief of Staff
Laure Christensen serves Park University as chief of staff. In this capacity, she works closely with the president in a variety of ways, serving as an advisor and manager of administrative, operational and financial affairs. Christensen oversees reporting needs, organizes communications, coordinates special events with other departments and serves as the main administrative liaison between the Office of the President and multiple areas, including Executive Staff and Park’s Board of Trustees. Christensen also guides administrative professionals university-wide through the Park Pirate Professionals.
Christensen began her career with Park in July 2003 and served in a variety of roles in the School for Arts and Humanities, the Office of Academic Affairs and the Office of the President. In 2011, she was honored with the Northland Regional Chamber of Commerce Excellence in Education award.
Prior to coming to Park, she served as office manager and an events specialist at Vic Gutman & Associates, a special events firm which coordinates special events for the city of Omaha and area not-for-profit organizations.
Donald Chrusciel, Ph.D.
Vice President of Finance and Administration
Don Chrusciel was appointed as vice president of finance and administration in August 2023.
In his role as VPFA, Chrusciel oversees the financial, accounting and administrative operations of the University, including strategic delivery. He is responsible for all fiscal services, including financial systems, reporting and controls, as well as fiscal policies and regulations. In addition, Chrusciel is responsible for ensuring the University has requisite financial resources, including cash management and borrowing agreements. Furthermore, Chrusciel is responsible for oversight of the Office of Human Resources, Office of Information Technology Services and Office of Facilities.
Chrusciel joined Park University after having served as vice chancellor of financial and administrative services with the Kansas City region’s Metropolitan Community College system since June 2018.
He has spent his entire professional career in higher education, including recent stints as vice president of finance and administrative services at Bakersfield (Calif.) College within the Kern (County, Calif.) Community College District and as vice president for administration and finance at the University of Central Oklahoma. Chrusciel also spent 14½ years as the business services director of facilities planning and management at Iowa State University in Ames. In addition, Chrusciel held various roles at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and the University of California, Berkeley.
Chrusciel earned his doctorate degree in industrial education and technology from ISU. He also earned a Master of Science degree in management information systems/operations management from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, a Master of Business Administration degree from California State University, Hayward (now CSU, East Bay), and a Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry from Michigan State University.
Chief Advancement Officer
Melissa Ford was appointed as Park University’s chief advancement officer in December 2023. In her role as CAO, Ford is charged with developing and executing comprehensive fundraising strategies that support the University’s mission and goals. She is responsible for growing the advancement program through annual giving, alumni relations, corporate and foundation relations, capital campaigns, major gifts, planned giving, stewardship, advancement services and special events. Ford also works with the University’s Board of Trustees and the Park University International Center for Music Foundation Board to further strengthen philanthropic support in support of faculty and student endeavors with an established, successful advancement team.
Ford joined Park University as its associate vice president for advancement after coming from the University of Missouri – Kansas City where she served as director of philanthropic giving for the School of Science and Engineering since 2021. Ford has nearly two decades of experience fundraising for Kansas City nonprofits, including the Kansas City Ballet, Girl Scouts of NE Kansas and NW Missouri, and United WE. In addition, Ford served as executive director for the Greater Kansas City Chapter of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America for more than five years.
Ford earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in dance performance from Oklahoma City University. A committed community volunteer, Ford serves as a Girl Scouts troop leader, is a member of the Kansas City Young Matrons and the Kansas City Ballet Guild’s Board of Directors, serving as its president in 2022-23.
Michelle Myers, Ed.D.
Michelle (Shellie) Myers, Ed.D., was appointed provost of Park University in October 2018. She had served as dean of the University’s College of Education and Health Professions since joining Park in July 2010.
Prior to joining Park, Myers served administrative stints as associate dean, assistant dean and acting assistant dean in the Division of Education at Queens College, the City University of New York, as well as interim associate dean of the College of Education and Human Services at the University of Central Missouri. In addition, she served as an assistant professor, then associate professor at UCM, and as assistant professor at Southeast Missouri State University. During her time at QC-CUNY, Myers served as coordinator of the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education. Myers earned her Doctor of Education degree in curriculum and pedagogy, and her Master of Education degree in teaching physical education, from the University of Arkansas. She received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Western Kentucky University.
Emily D. Sallee, Ph.D.
Vice Provost and Professor of English
Emily D. Sallee, Ph.D., is vice provost and a professor of English at Park University. Sallee joined the University as a faculty member in 2005.
Sallee has held a variety of leadership positions at the University, including dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, chair of the Department of English and Modern Languages, program coordinator for First-Year Writing and director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. She was appointed associate provost in 2016 and vice provost in 2022.
Sallee leads initiatives related to faculty development and support, curriculum, and accreditation. These initiatives include faculty orientation and mentoring, professional development for full-time and adjunct faculty, and faculty-related policies and procedures. Sallee also serves as the University’s Higher Learning Commission accreditation liaison officer.
Prior to arriving at Park, Sallee worked in the writing across the curriculum program at the University of Kansas where she also taught courses in first-year writing and technical communication. She earned a doctoral degree in rhetoric and writing and a Master of Arts degree in language and literature from the University of Kansas. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English and secondary education from William Jewell College.
Andrew Shoffner, Ph.D.
Vice President for Strategic Initiatives
Andrew Shoffner, Ph.D., was appointed vice president for strategic initiatives in February 2023. As VPSI, Dr. Shoffner synchronizes and coordinates efforts across University departments and the administration. He oversees and guides critical strategic initiatives, ensuring they align with the University’s goals and contribute to its overall success. Prior to arriving at Park, he had an illustrious career as a United States Army officer and civilian leader. In his most recent position as director of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College’s Department of Command and Leadership, he served as an assistant professor, leading a team of 35 civilian and military faculty members who develop and deliver command and leadership education for the CGSC curriculum. In a previous role as Fort Leavenworth’s garrison commander, Dr. Shoffner led and managed more than 700 employees and stewarded a $65M annual budget.
Dr. Shoffner earned his doctorate degree in adult learning and leadership from Kansas State University, Master of Military Art and Science degrees in strategic studies and operational planning from the U.S. Army School of Advanced Military Studies, a Master of Military Art and Science degree in military history from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and a Bachelor of Science degree in history from the United States Military Academy.
Chief Enrollment Management Officer
Kena Wolf was appointed chief enrollment management officer in January 2022. Prior to this appointment, she served as Park University’s associate vice president of campus center and distance operations. In that role, Wolf provided strategic leadership to the 40 campus centers in Park’s extended network as well as the undergraduate online and success teams.
Wolf began her career in education in 1995 as a high school teacher and debate coach. She has always had a passion for education and moved from teaching into higher education after five years in the classroom. Prior to joining Park in 2016, Wolf held a variety of higher education leadership positions in enrollment management, recruitment and operations. She has more than 15 years of innovative experience with multi-campus institutions.
Wolf earned a Master of Business Administration degree from Keller Graduate School of Management and a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and secondary education from Kansas State University.