Topeka, Kan. – Washburn President JuliAnn Mazachek announced today Dr. John Fritch as the new provost and vice president of academic affairs. Fritch, who currently serves as dean of the College of Humanities, Arts and Sciences at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI), will assume the role February 19, 2024.

    Fritch will serve as Washburn’s chief academic officer, providing primary administrative leadership for all academic activities, administrative leaders and faculty affairs for Washburn’s six colleges and schools, including Washburn Tech. Fritch was selected through a national search that included an extensive interview process, campus visits and input from a broad range of students, faculty, staff and stakeholders.

    “I am thrilled for Dr. Fritch to join Washburn’s leadership team. His deep and broad ranging experience as a dean and university leader along with his commitment to listening and working collaboratively across the campus will set Washburn on a path of continued excellence and innovation for the future,” said Mazachek. “He is an excellent communicator who develops exciting ideas and strategies for helping not only students, but faculty, grow and be successful.”

    Fritch has been at UNI, a Division I university in Cedar Falls, Iowa, for more than 20 years. His responsibilities include oversight of 14 academic departments as well as 23 centers and programs. He leads 200 tenure and tenure-track faculty and has established several new programs that have increased enrollment while targeting the needs of local employers and students.

    In addition, Fritch has led the development of recruitment strategies for the college that led to a 18% increase in undergraduate students. He also helped to establish retention practices that have resulted in a first-year retention rate of 85%. Other areas of impact include strategic planning, partnership building and initiatives that promote access and belonging. He is a professor of communication studies.

    “I am incredibly honored to be joining the Washburn community,” Fritch said. “When I visited with faculty, staff, students and members of the community, I was deeply impressed with the commitment to student success and academic excellence. I look forward to returning to Kansas, where I earned my graduate degrees, and calling this special place home.”

    Prior to his current role, Fritch served as the founding associate dean of the College of Humanities, Arts and Sciences at UNI and head of the department of communication studies. From 1992 to 2002, Fritch was director of forensics at Southwest Missouri State University.

    He earned a master’s and a doctorate degree in communications studies at the University of Kansas, after completing a bachelor’s degree in speech communication at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

    Fritch will succeed Dr. Laura Stephenson, who has served as interim provost and vice president of academic affairs at Washburn since the spring of 2022. Stephenson is preparing to retire at the end of May after 39 years of service and leadership. She will continue to work on special projects for the university and assist in the leadership transition over these next months.


For further information, contact:
Lori Hutchinson
Exec. Dir. of Strategic Communications & Marketing
Office: 785-670-1711
Cell: 785-224-6212
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