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Regent Interviews: Stephanie Fehr '87, Chair of the Presidential Search Committee

Regent Fehr '87

BORSC members Bergen Senf ‘24 and Will Asinger ‘25 met with Stephanie Fehr ‘87, a member of the St. Olaf Board of Regents, on Thursday, March 17th. Regent Fehr previously worked in human resources at Apple for 17 years, and since 2017 she is the Executive Vice President and Chief Human Capital Officer at United Healthcare Group. On the Board, Regent Fehr serves as head of the Presidential Search Committee. As an alumna, Regent Fehr is passionate about the St. Olaf experience, especially the holistic education that St. Olaf’s unique liberal arts curriculum provides. She calls it the “whole-person” experience, and it’s central to her personal vision as a Regent.

Regent Fehr graduated in 1987 from St. Olaf with a B.A. in English. Her experience was shaped by the engaged student body and the dedicated faculty, but she noted that in her time on the Hill, she didn’t even realize that there was a Board of Regents. She called her time at St. Olaf formative, and noted that the benefits of a St. Olaf education stretch far beyond academics. When asked about her favorite memory on the Hill, Regent Fehr immediately recalled her experience abroad, an Interim studying international macroeconomics in London, Paris, and Madrid. What she remembers most from this trip isn’t necessarily the classes themselves, but the conversations she shared with her fellow students after class and the relationships that they built. She pointed to this experience as an example of the whole-person growth that a St. Olaf student inevitably finds. Her time at St. Olaf inspired her to give back to the community, and when she was contacted about serving as a Regent, she knew this would be the perfect opportunity to shape the St. Olaf experience to be more innovative. The St. Olaf that Regent Fehr envisions is connected with the community, reflective of a whole-person approach, and committed to evolving with the world around it.

Regent Fehr’s recent work on the Board has centered around the presidential search process, as the St. Olaf community looks for a successor to current President David Anderson ‘74. Regent Fehr is an HR professional with extensive experience in corporate executive search, which makes her very well qualified to serve as the Chair of the Presidential Search Committee. The Committee is currently in the process of gathering feedback from the St. Olaf community for the search process, and Regent Fehr remarked that she has been deeply impressed by the level of engagement. She noted that a common thread in the feedback received so far has been the prioritization of diversity, equity and inclusion. The St. Olaf community has expressed its desire for a president who cultivates an inclusive environment where community members can be their authentic selves. The engagement stage is still ongoing; in April, a campus visit event will be held, followed by the second stage of the search process, reviewing potential candidates. Regent Fehr remarked that a challenge for her committee will be making sure that every voice is heard in the search process, but she is heartened by the passion for the future of St. Olaf that the community has shown so far.

The COVID-19 pandemic has not changed Regent Fehr’s prioritization of the experience of her customers, the St. Olaf student body. She mentioned that the pandemic has brought mental health to the forefront of that experience, and she wants to continue to make sure that students have a support network and resources that they can fall back on. Regent Fehr reflected on the effect of the pandemic on our work and study practices, and pointed out that productivity hasn’t diminished during the pandemic, just changed. To Regent Fehr, the college’s COVID response has been characterized by creativity and flexibility, and this is just another example of the whole-person growth that St. Olaf inspires. She remains committed to innovation during the pandemic, and she is confident that the community will continue to adapt and grow.

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