Shari Veil knows a thing or two about leading others through turbulent times.
From getting a doctoral degree with an emphasis in risk and crisis communication to serving as director of the University of Oklahoma’s Center for Risk and Crisis Management, she’s dedicated her career to understanding how organizations can work with stakeholders through periods of change.
Now, as the new dean of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s College of Journalism and Mass Communications, Veil is putting that knowledge to the test.
“My experience certainly has come in handy beginning this leadership role in the middle of a pandemic,” Veil said. “I know that in a crisis, anxiety grows because of a lack of communication — so our college has been doing everything we can to make sure people have the information they need to make decisions. We had meetings every other week throughout the summer with all faculty and staff, created a whole website dedicated to what classes are going to look like and hosted town halls with parents and students before the semester started. We wanted students to know exactly what to expect, and I think that preparation has paid off.”
Veil, who previously served as associate dean for undergraduate affairs in the College of Communication and Information at the University of Kentucky, started at Nebraska on July 1.
“My husband and I were high school sweethearts who grew up in North Dakota, so this feels a little like coming home for our family,” Veil said. “Everyone here is very friendly and focused on community and their commitment to the university. It’s really been a nice welcoming.”
She brings a strong business background to the position, having earned a Master of Business Administration from the University of Mary in North Dakota prior to entering academia.
“I got my MBA long before I considered a career in higher education — but these days, I spend significantly more time going over budgets, advancing strategic initiatives and managing teams than I do in the classroom,” Veil said. “In higher education today, the dean is essentially the CEO of the college, and we need to ensure that we are making the best use of our funds. In that sense, the MBA provides a nice foundation.”
In the short time she’s been at the university, Veil has already outlined a number of goals for the college.
“One of my biggest objectives right now is engaging with our alumni on a deeper level,” Veil said. “There’s so much to be gained from that. Alumni can learn new skills and emerging trends from our students, and students can learn about what job opportunities are out there from our alumni. It benefits both parties.”
Under Veil, the College of Journalism and Mass Communications is setting up a new “One-for-One” scholarship program that will connect each of its annual giving donors with a specific student. While details are still in the works, under the program, each donor who establishes a scholarship will be paired with their student as a virtual mentor through Husker Connect. The college will also host events and activities for students and mentors throughout the year.
“With most scholarship programs, you donate, it goes to the student, but there’s not much connection there past that,” Veil said. “This way, we’re actually tying the individual who is giving the money to the student and they are linked for those four years.”
Veil also wants to grow the college’s research programs and create more opportunities for graduate and nontraditional students.
“We’re interested in creating an online degree completion program for the 300,000-plus Nebraskans who are out there with some college education and no degree, as well as graduate certificates in sports promotion and data science for strategic communication,” Veil said. “Down the road, we hope to establish a PhD to meet the demand of the expected 20% job growth in media and market research.”
Providing more leadership and hands-on opportunities to students, Veil said, is another large priority.
“Every student coming out of our college should know how to write and communicate with clarity, as well as have a strong ethical base. They should have those skills in abundance, and that will never change,” Veil said. “However, we also need to give them the tools to grow and adapt and evolve with the industry. There shouldn’t be this idea of, ‘Well, I’m going out and I’m going to find this specific job.’ Instead, it’s going out and saying: ‘The world is my oyster. Let’s go out and decide what we want this industry to be and where I want to be within it.’”
As the fall semester kicks off, Veil is hopeful about the possibilities that lie ahead.
“There’s so much pent-up energy and opportunity here and I just want to release it, encourage it and shine some light on it,” she said. “I’m just really excited to be here and be a part of this new chapter.”