Suzanne Allison Davis, J.D., MBA, assumed leadership as Greenville University’s acting president on May 1, 2020. She brings a wealth of experience in higher education, management, and law to her leadership role at the University.
Davis began as a faculty member at Greenville University in 2012, then transitioned to full-time administrator, beginning as former President Ivan Filby’s chief of staff in 2013. She was founding dean of the Briner School of Business and in 2017 became VP for university relations. She then served GU as executive vice president.
In her two years as executive vice president, Davis aided in the school’s successful accreditation effort, leading the financial, operations, and governance portions. Davis led the president’s executive cabinet and managed the reorganization of enrollment, marketing, and international affairs at the University. She also oversaw the finance office, financial aid, and athletics.
As president, Davis emphasizes empowerment for students and employees. She encourages input and decision-making from leaders across campus, including academic program directors. She has established a president’s council to receive input from the campus community and make timely, informed decisions.
Davis supports GU’s efforts to be a student-centric organization.
“GU provides students not just a degree, but a resume,” she says, referencing GU’s commitment to give students hands-on experience in their fields. She encourages students to “level up in their lives, personally and professionally” and put their talents to work serving others.
Davis knows the power of a liberal arts degree combined with practical work experience. She graduated from Greenville University (then College) in 2000 with a bachelor of arts in history and political science, and a bachelor of arts in philosophy and religion. She credits the intensive thinking and writing skills of her liberal arts education with her success in later endeavors. She earned her MBA from the University of Illinois College of Business and her juris doctorate at University of Illinois College of Law. She practiced civil and criminal law in Tuscola, Illinois, and taught at Eastern Illinois University’s School of Business from 2005-2012.
In addition, Davis says her years at GU prepared her to serve. “You can have all those liberal arts ideas, but you also have to put them to work to serve others,” she says. This frames her current support of hands-on learning paired with a strong liberal arts curriculum. “We describe that kind of education often, but I feel like I’ve really lived it,” she observes.
Davis planned for a career in law, but an opportunity to teach business at GU and influence today’s students drew her back. Today, she sees a bright future for GU.
“We have a very innovative spirit in our DNA,” Davis says, noting the University’s penchant for resilience. Even during difficult times, she says, “we dig deep and we make it” through the storm.
Davis acknowledges that “It’s a challenging time in higher education. But that gives us an opportunity to innovate and rethink how we can better serve our students. In fact, loving our students is one thing we’re known for. And often it’s when we are put to the test that our Christian values really stand out.”
Davis’ faith has led her to three main mottos of leadership:
- With many advisors, plans succeed—Davis seeks input from knowledgeable colleagues.
- Seed must fall on good soil—GU needs the strong roots of its mission statement and history to serve as “good soil” where students grow.
- Serve, don’t be served—Graduates should aspire to serve others with their gifts.
In addition to her leadership duties at GU, Davis serves on several boards, including Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company of Fort Wayne, Indiana, and HSHS Holy Family Hospital in Greenville, Illinois.
Davis aims for GU to “prepare students for the adaptability they’re going to need in their careers.”