Ashley Benson named to newly created dean of student engagement position at Luther College

May 14, 2021

DECORAH, Iowa - President Jenifer K. Ward has announced the appointment of Ashley C. Benson to the newly created dean of student engagement position at Luther College. 

The dean of student engagement is part of an administrative reorganization designed to create an integrated, student-centric approach to all academic and co-curricular services. Reporting to newly appointed provost, Lynda A. Szymanski, Benson will join the Luther community on July 1. 

"I am delighted to welcome Dr. Benson to Luther College," said Ward. "The search committee feedback, as well as the comments from our community, gave both me and Provost-Elect Lynda Szymanski confidence that we would be adding an energetic, student-focused and change-comfortable dean of student engagement to lead us in this new role within an integrated provost division. I am grateful to Search Committee Chair VP Stephen Sporer and a great committee of faculty, staff and students for their thorough and thoughtful work that led to this wonderful outcome."

Benson has a meaningful history of supporting and engaging with students. She comes to Luther from the College of Wooster in Ohio where she has worked as the associate dean of students since 2017. Prior to that appointment, Benson was the director of TRIO Student Support Services at North Central State College in Mansfield, Ohio, for nearly seven years. 

"I am excited to assume the role of dean of student engagement at Luther College and to bring President Ward's vision to fruition with the new provost model," said Benson. "My immediate focus will be to learn the culture of the college while also improving retention and persistence efforts, developing leadership training for student leaders and collaborating with various student affairs/student services and academic departments."

At Luther, Benson will oversee seven student-centric units including campus recreational sports, Counseling Service, the Nena Amundson Lifetime Wellness Program, Residence Life, student activities, Health Service and the Student Life Office.

Benson earned her bachelor of science in education degree and an M.Ed degree in education administration and supervision from Bowling Green State University. She also holds an M.A. and a Ph.D., both in leadership and change, from Antioch University. Her research interests are in first-generation and low-income students and the factors that influence their ability to graduate college. 

"It is important for students to know that Luther College is a safe space for them to thrive and learn. I envision the dean of student engagement as a role to make a positive and lasting impact on student lives and support diversity, equity and inclusion efforts across campus. We are preparing future alumni; thus, creating the framework for successful alumni and alumni groups. It is important for me in this role to make student engagement at Luther College stronger than ever," said Benson.

Luther College is home to more than 1,800 undergraduates who explore big questions and take action to benefit people, communities and society. Our 60+ academic programs, experiential approach to learning and welcoming community inspire students to learn actively, live purposefully and lead courageously for a lifetime of impact. Learn more at