PNW Pridecast: Chancellor Holford’s Leadership Begins

February 5, 2024

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Episode Script

New PNW Chancellor Chris Holford speaks in front of a PNW "Power Onward" backdrop.

New PNW Chancellor Kenneth C. “Chris” Holford addresses the PNW community at an event celebrating the university’s new leadership.

Hello, Purdue Northwest colleagues! You’re tuned in for Pridecast, sharing the latest PNW faculty and staff news.

I’m the host, Kale Wilk, and in this installment we’re going to share news about the beginning of PNW Chancellor Chris Holford’s administration; the approval of PNW’s third doctoral program and affirmation as a doctoral-granting institution; and a roundup of recent faculty and staff honors and recognitions.

Kenneth C. “Chris” Holford Assumes PNW Chancellor Role

Kenneth (Chris) Holford in early December was selected to serve as PNW’s next Chancellor. Holford was chosen and recommended by Purdue President Mung Chiang following a national search and ratified by the Purdue Board of Trustees during its December meeting. He stepped into his new role effective Jan. 8.

PNW campus members joined in leadership celebrations with Chancellor Holford on Jan. 16 and Jan. 17. On Jan. 16, Chancellor Holford was joined by Purdue President Mung Chiang with hundreds of students, faculty and staff members in Alumni Hall to mark the beginning of Holford’s leadership. On Jan. 17, Chancellor Holford met and shared lunch with students, faculty and staff at the Westville branch campus.

Under the banner of “Excellence Evolving,” Holford and Chiang praised PNW’s major successes that have elevated its reputation nationally.  Holford lauded several recent accomplishments, including affirmation as a doctoral-granting institution by the Higher Learning Commission, consecutive years of record totals in sponsored research, and community-facing and impactful academic research centers in several key disciplines.

We are here to best serve students in Northwest Indiana and provide them the best education possible.

Holford and Chiang both emphasized PNW’s involvement in major industrial and economic projects, including U.S. Department of Energy-funded decarbonization research and the MachH2 Hydrogen Hub, the Quantum Corridor and the Roberts Impact Lab. They also highlighted PNW’s recognition as Indiana’s third Innovation and Economic Prosperity University.

Here’s President Chiang with more:

“It is not easy to be a regional institution with so much momentum and upward trajectory. It is not easy to be a regional institution with a national impact and brand. If you are a member of this community, you should feel a strong sense of pride — the pride that I personally share as well.

“I always say that a regional university has to be agile, have specialties and have town and gown partnerships so that the community and university will go together to the next level. It is ‘who’ before ‘what.’ It takes leadership and determination to say, ‘let us go to the next level together.’”

And, here’s a selection of Chancellor Holford’s remarks, too:

“We are at the crossroads of initiatives that are of national importance,” Holford said. “PNW’s involvement and our geographical location have made us a national player. All of this translates back to serving our student body. Our students will have opportunities to participate in cutting edge projects and receive the type of training that will make them valuable employees across the nation. We are here to best serve students in Northwest Indiana and provide them the best education possible.”

PNW Affirmed as Doctoral-Granting Institution, PsyD Receives Final Approval

Again, part of President Chiang and Chancellor Holford’s comments reflected PNW’s expansion of applied doctoral programs that elevate the institution’s academic reputation. The Higher Learning Commission (HLC), the institution’s accreditor, affirmed PNW as a doctoral-granting institution with its approved substantive change in mission or student body. This coincided with the HLC’s final approval of PNW’s Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) applied doctoral program.

The PsyD is intended to prepare students as both practitioners and scholars to address local needs for mental health resources in Northwest Indiana. It becomes PNW’s third applied doctoral program, joining the existing Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and Doctor of Technology (DTech). Graduates of these programs earn advanced credentials for elevated roles and are equipped to deliver transformative change for our region.

The PsyD program’s curriculum will be grounded in psychological science and intended for students primarily focused on clinical practice. A Master of Science (M.S.) will also be added to the curriculum. The PsyD is a major accomplishment for the department of Psychology and PNW because of how it will prepare exceptional credentialed practitioners that are qualified to meet a pressing need for our metropolitan area. It will create synergy for existing academic programs in Psychology, Behavioral Sciences and the School of Education and Counseling. It is also the only Psychology doctorate program offered in northern Indiana.


It is really exciting to both be training students that we know will stay and work in the region and help us put a dent in that mental health shortage and workforce development needs that we have, and also to be serving the community at the same time.

Amanda Zelechoski, professor of Psychology

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Here’s Amanda Zelechoski, professor of Psychology, with more from a recent appearance on the PNW Today radio program:

“We have been in the area for a long time, practicing, training and teaching students in this region, and recognizing that there is a huge gap in doctoral-level-trained mental health professionals,” said Zelechoski. “This is a major need in this region. We are in a federally designated mental health shortage area.

“This was an opportunity for us to meet a need and to meet our students where they are. Many of our students are interested in staying and contributing to the communities from which they hail. It is really exciting to both be training students that we know will stay and work in the region and help us put a dent in that mental health shortage and workforce development needs that we have, and also to be serving the community at the same time. Much of the training program involves them (students) working directly in the community throughout Northwest Indiana.”

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Recent News Items

Finally, we have a few recent campus news items we’d like to share more info on:

  • Following Kenneth “Chris” Holford’s appointment as PNW Chancellor, Niaz Latif agreed to serve for a second time as interim provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs. Latif will provide leadership for PNW’s six academic colleges while a national search is conducted for PNW’s next provost. Latif currently serves as associate vice chancellor for Commercialization and Research and executive director of the Commercialization and Manufacturing Excellence Center (CMEC). He will continue to oversee those areas as well as the office of Institutional Research, Center for Faculty Excellence and office of Academic and Student Success.
  • Amy Fry was announced in early January as the next dean to lead PNW’s College of Nursing. Fry has served in the college since January 2022, including as interim dean during the fall 2023 semester. She has also served as a clinical associate professor of Nursing and director of Online Programs. Fry has taught undergraduate and graduate Nursing students for over 12 years, both at PNW and previously at Saint Xavier University. She is a registered nurse (RN) licensed in Indiana and Illinois.
  • PNW will honor three distinguished alumni in its third annual PNW Alumni Hall of Fame class. The three honorees to be inducted in the 2024 class include Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott, Jr. (B.S. ‘96), the Honorable Diane Kavadias Schneider (B.A. ‘71, M.A. ‘74, M.A. ‘23) and Jeff Strack (M.B.A. ‘00), president and CEO of Indiana Grocery Group, which does business as and operates Strack & Van Til stores.PNW’s Alumni Hall of Fame honors alumni who are high-achieving leaders in their fields, involved members of their communities and who have engaged with PNW well beyond their time as students. The three 2024 inductees will be honored April 4 during a reception and dinner hosted in Alumni Hall in the Student Union and Library Building on PNW’s Hammond campus.
  • The Center for Innovation through Visualization and Simulation (CIVS) has received a $7.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Industrial Efficiency and Decarbonization Office to fund research centered on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and steel decarbonization. With the addition of this latest award, Chenn Zhou, NIPSCO Distinguished Professor of Engineering Simulation and founding director of CIVS, has brought in $24 million to Northwest Indiana through multiple projects focused on steel decarbonization, as well as engaging with other universities and industrial partners on millions of dollars in sponsored grant-funded initiatives.
  • Gisele Casanova, interim chair for the department of Psychology and associate professor of Psychology, is a 2024 recipient of the Purdue University Martin Luther King, Jr. Dreamer Award. The annual award is presented to individuals whose contributions embody the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of service to others and furthers the university’s commitment to diversity. Casanova has served PNW for 30 years as not only a faculty member and scholar, but also as a sought-after advisor and mentor who empowers students of color seeking post-baccalaureate degrees. She was one of four award recipients this year.
  • Hubert Izienicki, associate professor of Sociology, earned the 2024 Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) Indiana Annual Teaching Award, recognizing instructors who use transformative, inclusive and engaged classroom techniques that result or culminate in effective teaching. Izienicki was specifically recognized for research on implementing a syllabus quiz in a course in order to make predictions of students’ overall course performance. Students who did not perform well could then be identified as students that may need additional resources and support for success. All LEAP Indiana award recipients received $1,000. LEAP Indiana is conducted in partnership with the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AACU).
  • Pam Saylor, clinical assistant professor in the department of Behavioral Sciences, was selected by Purdue University’s Office of Service-Learning as an Advanced Service-Learning Fellow for spring 2024. Saylor is one of four former Service-Learning Fellows chosen to participate in the Advanced Service-Learning cohort. The program fosters development of service-learning courses and promotes the collaboration between faculty, students and community organizations. The cohort will research broadband internet service accessibility, as well as explore digital literacy and equity for rural communities in Indiana.
  • Three PNW faculty and staff members are included in the Leadership Institute and Society of Innovators at PNW’s 2024 Women on the Rise honorees. The honorees from PNW include Amy Fry, dean of the College of Nursing; Nicky Ali Jackson, professor of Criminal Justice and director of the Center for Justice and Post-Exoneration Assistance; and Darien Thompson, director of Student Success and Urban Engagement. The annual Northwest Indiana Women on the Rise list includes women leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs who are making an impact across Northwest Indiana.
  • Finally, PNW was recently elevated to the First Scholars phase by the Center for First-generation Student Success in recognition of its continuous efforts to support first-generation college students. PNW is a member of the First Scholars Network of Institutions, and was previously named a First-Gen Forward Institution in spring 2022. In its capacity as a First Scholars institution, PNW will continue developing evidence-based and research-supported student-focused resources to enhance future outcomes.

That’s all for this installment! We encourage anyone to listen to past episodes and share your faculty and staff news by visiting

I’m Kale Wilk, signing off for now, and we’ll reconnect with you in a few weeks.