Missouri State University announced two key hires on Tuesday, including a second-in-command under President Clif Smart who will likely be a candidate as his successor.
Zora Mulligan will join MSU as its executive vice president starting July 5. And starting July 1, Brad Bodenhausen will become MSU’s vice president for community and global partnerships.
Mulligan is currently the state’s commissioner of higher education, and she is stepping into a new role at MSU, according to a news release. The executive vice president position is a new post at MSU, and in his Clif’s Notes newsletter, Smart wrote the position is being shaped with Mulligan’s “strengths as a leader and a post-secondary education innovator” in mind.
“She will lead our efforts to redesign the university to meet modern educational needs,” Smart wrote. “This will involve innovative approaches that target employer and community partnerships, adult and online students, and traditional students and parents who are increasingly skeptical about the value of a college education. It will also involve creative approaches to overcome matriculation, retention, and graduation barriers current and prospective students experience at MSU.”
Smart also wrote that the MSU Board of Governors wanted the person hired for this position to be a strong internal candidate when the time comes to hire a new university president. That time will come no later than June 30, 2026, when Smart’s contract expires. Smart, 61, wrote that while he has not made specific retirement plans, he will not continue on as president after his contract is up.
Board Chair Carol Silvey said in a news release that Mulligan’s accomplishments and reputation will serve her if she has to step in and run the university while Smart is still president, as well as make her a strong candidate for when Smart leaves.
“The board has not committed that our next president will come from inside the university,” Smart wrote. “However, they would like to have a viable internal option when they search for my replacement.”
Mulligan touted experience, consensus-building during Q&A
An earlier version of the story incorrectly stated the length of Frank Einhelling’s tenure as provost.
At a forum held during the interview process, Mulligan said that her career has been characterized by a commitment to public service. During her time as the commissioner of higher education, Mulligan led efforts to merge higher education, workforce development and economic research into one state agency. In 2021, she was honored by the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association with its Exceptional Leader Award. During the forum, she said that her role with the state focuses on coordinating with universities to approve new academic programs and campuses, enhancing affordability through scholarship and grant programs like A+ and Fast Track, student success, outreach and workforce development.
Asked by Smart to highlight her achievements as commissioner, Mulligan pointed to her role in developing a faster approval process of many academic programs, a request that she found waiting for her when she took the job.
“At the very beginning of my time as commissioner, I inherited a pretty big dispute that Missouri State had instigated,” she said. “So thank you, President Smart. I appreciate that.”
“Happy to help,” Smart replied.
Mulligan said that she and her department took the position that academic institutions should be trusted when requests are made to develop doctoral programs, and that students should not have to drive to Columbia to get degrees to address high-level workforce issues where they live. She pointed to MSU’s upcoming doctorate of psychology program, which will help address mental health needs on campus and in the community.
Mulligan earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and psychology at Drury University and her master’s degree in education and law degree at the University of Kansas. Before becoming a state commissioner, she served as chief of staff to the University of Missouri System president, executive director of the Missouri Community College Association and as an assistant attorney general.
“She has demonstrated the wisdom throughout her career to know when to pause, when to drive forward, when to cut bait, when to finesse, and when to forge through adversity,” Smart wrote. “She has good judgment and makes excellent decisions. She respects people and processes. Above all, her passion for the academy, access to education, inclusive excellence, and student success are unparalleled.”
At Missouri State, Smart said her efforts to build partnerships and address barriers students face in gaining a higher education will free him up to work on advocacy, fundraising, managing university finances and assets and more.
Faculty concerns led to creation of interim provost position
Mulligan will not serve as provost, a position she described in the forum as the hardest job on many campuses. When interviews were being conducted, MSU was in search of an executive vice president-provost, with the new hire expected to replace the retiring Frank Einhellig. In his letter, Smart noted that Mulligan’s lack of professorial experience drew some faculty concern. Mulligan said during the forum that her experience managing a large budget and staff, along with developing consensus on difficult and challenging issues, led her to believe she was qualified to apply.
When asked by a faculty member how she would evaluate research and teaching of faculty up for tenure or promotion – a key part of the provost’s job – Mulligan said her time with the University of Missouri offered her a window into the review process, and that she would take into consideration recommendations by different groups that review a professor’s portfolio. When there are challenging decisions to be made, she would work with general counsel and the president and make sure the results were part of a fair process.
While Smart said he was ready to hire Mulligan to take on both the executive vice president and provost roles, he will instead name an interim provost before Einhellig retires in June.
“This both meets our immediate needs and, as an interim solution funded with one-time funds, it does not involve a permanent expansion of administrative positions,” Smart said.
“I’m very excited about these two additions to my leadership team,” Smart said in a news release. “I selected Zora because of her leadership abilities, creativity and broad experience in higher education. We are beyond fortunate that Zora accepted this position, and I look forward to working with her.”
Bodenhausen set to replace another longtime MSU VP, Jim Baker
Bodenhausen will move up in the MSU ranks days before Mulligan’s tenure here begins. He replaces Jim Baker as MSU’s vice president of community and global partnerships. Baker announced last year that he will retire at the end of June.
Bodenhausen has worked for the university since 2014, and currently serves as the associate vice president of international education and training. Prior to joining MSU, he was the executive vice president at the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce.
“Brad is deeply connected in the Springfield community and has helped drive many new international connections. He will help the university develop more local and international partnerships.”