SRU names Karla Fonner as new dean of students


Fonner in her office

Karla Fonner, formerly Slippery Rock University’s director of student support, is now SRU’s dean of students.

Nov. 3, 2021

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. — Although the job description varies from campus to campus, the dean of students position in higher education is a person who oversees the care and conduct of students. Until recently, Slippery Rock University did not have a dean of students, but SRU did have staff dedicated to these duties shared between two different offices. That has now changed with Karla Fonner, formerly the director of student support, now assuming the role of dean of students.

Fonner will continue in her role leading the Student Support Office, but will assume oversight of the Student Conduct Office, which will soon have a new director who will report to Fonner. A search is currently underway for the director of student conduct after the recent resignation of Leigh Ann Gilmore.

"Karla has served as our de facto dean of students for many years, providing crisis intervention, connecting students to resources and working with faculty to ensure that students are supported in times of need," said David Wilmes, chief student affairs officer. "She has done an excellent job navigating this work and serving our students effectively. I see the addition of Student Conduct as the natural progression of this role, and the dean of students title will help both internal and external constituents understand where to refer students in times of need."

David Wilmes


Fonner was SRU's director of student support since 2014 and has worked at the University since 2002. The Student Support Office is a central location where faculty, staff, students, parents or community members can refer students experiencing or causing distress that interferes with learning, development and success. The University began offering formal student intervention services in 2013 and since then it has increased its number of case managers as the needs continued to present themselves.

"The creation of a dean of students position helps recognize the level of importance in the work that is happening in Student Support and Student Conduct," Fonner said. "For me, this title is really about making the advocacy for our students more efficient and effective. Whenever I would call community providers -- for example, if a student was hospitalized -- and I would tell them that I'm the director of student support, it would often require a long explanation about what that is."

The Student Conduct Office addresses violations of the University's Student Code of Conduct by developing, distributing and interpreting campus policies that consistently and equitably uphold community standards, through education, accountability, ethical growth and civic responsibility. Brian Graham, associate director of residential conduct in the Residence Life Office, will serve as interim director until a permanent director is hired.

"We've recognized this opportunity, with a change of leadership in Student Conduct, to rethink how it fits within the overall division of Student Affairs," Wilmes said. "The dean of students is a role that challenges students to live up to the values we have as an institution while supporting them through times that interfere with their ability to be successful."

Fonner's office will remain at 008 Patterson Hall.

"Once we get the new director of student conduct in place, I will work with that person to come up a vision for Student Conduct, but from a Student Support perspective, it's really business as usual," Fonner said. "We are here to support students, and we're making sure that they get connected to the resources they need. This change is bringing those two worlds together to make sure that students are getting the things that they need in order to be successful."

For more information about Student Conduct and Student Support are available on the SRU website.

MEDIA CONTACT: Justin Zackal | 724.738.4854  |