A New Generation of Graceland Leaders

Over the past year, President Draves promoted key leaders to serve in pivotal advisory roles as members of her Executive Council.

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University News - Spring 22

April 27, 2022 | Georgia Seagraves

Each of them brings a unique skill set to their leadership role, but they are united in their commitment to furthering the mission of Graceland: to create learning environments where students develop their potential for meaningful and productive lives. They know the mission well because they all experienced it as students and are excited to ensure that a new generation of students finds their place at Graceland as they did.

Kristi Hettrick ’96, the new Vice President for Institutional Advancement (VPIA), remembers vividly the moment that she decided she wanted to return to Graceland. The career fundraising professional was so blown away by the Newcom Student Union project and wanted to be a part of whatever Kelly Everett ’77 – Graceland’s former VPIA – was planning to do next for Graceland students. “I told Kelly that I wanted to help. I wanted to go to work fundraising for exciting projects like that.”

Talia Kinder ’05 Brown and Deb Knotts ’93 Skinner were elevated to Chief Information Officer and Vice President for Enrollment and Strategic Growth, respectively, acknowledging their decades of service to the University with leadership positions that are critical for Graceland’s growth in the coming years. Brown is currently in the midst of leading Graceland’s digital transformation (Dx) project, a massive overhaul of Graceland’s technology systems and processes.

Skinner has served Graceland in a wide variety of roles over her 25 years at Graceland and now is charged with growing enrollment across the University. When asked about serving in this new role, Skinner said, “I am so grateful for the opportunity to serve a community I treasure. It is the Graceland friendships, experiences, and challenges which have made my life rich and full. It is an investment I work hard to repay every day.”

Assisting in all these efforts is Shane Adams ’99, Graceland’s Chief Marketing Officer, who oversees all marketing and communications for the University. First on his list was improving Graceland’s website. Next up: taking a closer look at the University’s brand story and finding a way to elevate awareness across key demographics and markets.

And for Beth Higdon ’73, who is now Graceland’s Executive Director for Planning and Effectiveness, service to Graceland runs in her blood, quite literally, as she follows in the footsteps of her parents and grandfather. Higdon believes, “Every generation has its own Graceland Experience. Even though the Graceland I attended years ago was significantly different, the value and uniqueness of that Graceland Experience has evolved to be meaningful in today’s so-very-different world.”

For these five alumni, Graceland isn’t just another job – it’s a calling to an institution that prepared them to give back.

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