LAWRENCE — Longtime University of Kansas leader Sharon Graham will retire in August 2021. Graham started with KU in 1986 and currently serves as the vice provost of Lifelong & Professional Education (LPE).
“I so appreciate Vice Provost Graham’s dedication to the university and her commitment to excellence. Sharon steered KU’s continuing education unit through great change in higher education and workforce development,” said Barbara A. Bichelmeyer, provost and executive vice chancellor. “As any leader hopes, Sharon indeed improved her unit and leaves it well-positioned for the future. Expectations for LPE’s service to the communities, industry and people in Kansas and beyond have steadily increased for many years, and we certainly expect that to continue. Sharon made sure KU is not just meeting those expectations but continuing to innovate and lead.”
Emily Zentner, director of business services for LPE and associate director of fiscal services for the Edwards Campus, will serve as the interim vice provost of LPE beginning Aug. 20. She has held a number of fiscal management roles in LPE since first joining the university as business manager for KU Aerospace Short Course Program in 2008.
The LPE programming portfolio Graham oversees is both diverse and essential, including the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center (KLETC), Kansas Fire & Rescue Training Institute (KFRTI), Professional Programs and Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. Under Graham’s leadership for the past seven years, LPE significantly expanded its offerings in career-focused workforce training such as KU Boot Camps, which have graduated hundreds of people with job-ready technical skills, online offerings, KU’s internationally renowned Aerospace Short Courses and Professional Leadership programming. Both KLETC and KFRTI continued to evolve their curricula and services, routinely supporting agencies and departments in every Kansas county.
“The people of LPE and KU is what I will miss most,” Graham said. “I’ll also miss the entrepreneurialism of LPE’s programs and daily operations. It was always exciting to watch a program go from idea, to proposal, to its first class, to its first graduates – oftentimes in the matter of a few months. Meaningfully and quickly making a difference in people’s careers, in communities, for employers and in the success of LPE is very rewarding.”
Graham started with what was then known as KU Continuing Education. After a few years in a similar capacity at Washburn University, she returned to KU Continuing Education. She next served in the Self Graduate Fellowship program, finally returning to lead Continuing Education. Graham oversaw the expansion of the unit’s offices to the Edwards Campus in Overland Park to better serve the Kansas City metropolitan area. Under her leadership, the unit was renamed Professional & Continuing Education to better reflect its critical workforce development mission. The unit became known as Lifelong & Professional Education in 2020 to include the philosophy that learning never ceases.
In retirement, Graham looks forward to spending time with family and friends as well as traveling.