Provost honored for academic leadership

Cal Lutheran's Neilson helps colleagues throughout US

Leanne Neilson was honored for her exemplary contributions to enhancing the role and work of chief academic officers at the nation's private colleges. 

Photo: Tamzin Smith Photography

(THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Nov. 12, 2019) The Council of Independent Colleges awarded California Lutheran University Provost Leanne Neilson its 2019 Chief Academic Officer Award.

Created in 1987, the annual award honors those who have made exemplary contributions to enhancing the role and work of chief academic officers at the nation’s private colleges. CIC is an association of more than 700 nonprofit independent colleges and universities and organizations that has worked since 1956 to help institutions improve educational quality, administrative and financial performance, and visibility. 

“Leanne, we recognize your dedicated service to California Lutheran University as well as your willingness to help other campus leaders better understand the challenges facing them,” said Glenn R. Sharfman, chair of the CIC Chief Academic and Chief Advancement Officers Task Force, at the Nov. 2 ceremony in Baltimore. “You have guided the academic enterprise at California Lutheran University with extraordinary skill since 2008. … You also have played a leadership role in the workshops for department and division chairs, helping colleagues who are new to leadership positions strengthen all of our institutions.”

Sharfman, provost of Oglethorpe University, noted that Cal Lutheran has expanded its footprint and added academic programs under Neilson’s leadership and that she has spearheaded efforts to increase student access. For CIC, she served on the Chief Academic Officer Task Force from 2016 to 2019, the last year as chair.

Prior to becoming Cal Lutheran’s provost and vice president for academic affairs, Neilson served as associate provost overseeing graduate programs, accreditation and assessment. She originally came to Cal Lutheran in 1993 as a member of the psychology faculty and directed graduate psychology programs for six years. She has a bachelor’s degree in organizational psychology, master’s in psychology and doctorate in clinical psychology from Pepperdine University.

Neilson served for five years on the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Substantive Change Committee, including two years as co-chair. In 2018, she was appointed to serve a three-year term on the WASC Senior College and University Commission.  

The Simi Valley resident also has been a leader for local nonprofit organizations. She is the chair of the Thousand Oaks Alliance for the Arts, immediate past chair of United Way’s Women United in Ventura County and a member of the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women Leadership Team. She served on the board of United Way for six years, including one year as chair. United Way named her Volunteer of the Year in 2008.