University Leadership

At Briar Cliff University, our leadership includes the university president along with an administrative group of vice presidents governing academic affairs, student development, finance, university relations, admissions, and athletics.

Karstens, Rachelle

Interim President of Briar Cliff

Rachelle Karstens, JD, has over twenty years of experience as a practicing attorney, and has higher education administrative experience in both the university and the community college setting. Rachelle came to Briar Cliff University from Indian Hills College, where she served as the Executive Director, Philanthropy & Alumni Relations. She commenced her professional career in higher education as the Director of Planned Giving for the University of Iowa Foundation. Additionally, she previously served on the governing board for her alma mater, Wartburg College, as well as the governing board for Grinnell Regional Medical Center.

Knealing, Todd

Vice President for Academic Affairs

Dr. Todd Knealing is the Vice President for Academic Affairs who oversees the academic operations of the University, including academic programs and faculty recruitment. A professor of psychology, Dr. Knealing has taught courses at BCU for the past 10 years. He has also served as director of the Center for Enhancement of Learning and Teaching (CELT), chaired the school of undergraduate studies and participated as a member of the strategic leadership team at Briar Cliff.

Paskey, Louise

Vice President for Student Development and Institutional Mission

Louise Paskey is the Vice President for Student Development and Institutional Mission, who coordinates many aspects of the student experience, social and personal growth and broad-based learning outside of the classroom. The Office of Student Development oversees campus life and housing, student activities, campus security, career development, leadership programs, athletics, campus ministry, health and wellness, counseling, multicultural programs and new student registration. In addition to her Student Development responsibilities, Louise also oversees collaboration with members of the university community to advance the University’s mission, provides counsel and assistance to the President to support mission-conscious strategic planning and decision making, promotes institutional effectiveness and provides leadership as the chair for the University’s Catholic Franciscan team.

Rueter, Ken

Vice President for Finance and Administration

Ken Rueter is the Vice President for Finance and Administration, who is responsible for the strategic oversight and management of the University’s financial resources and operations. Rueter is a certified public accountant (CPA) with more than 35 years of experience in higher education finance at private, liberal institutions; including as a vice president for business and finance and as an associate professor of accounting.

Stroud, Tina

Vice President for University Relations

Tina Stroud is the Vice President for University Relations, who is responsible for development, fundraising, alumni relations and marketing and communication strategies at the University. Stroud, a Briar Cliff alumna, has more than 20 years of fundraising experience at non-profit organizations, including at the Alzhemier’s Association and St. Luke’s Health Foundation prior to her return to BCU.

Thomsen, Matt

Acting Vice President for Enrollment Management

Matt Thomsen is the Acting Vice President for Enrollment Management. Since Matt joined the Briar Cliff community as Executive Director of Enrollment in September 2017, he has been instrumental in the development of new admissions strategies. As VP for Enrollment, Matt is responsible for coordinating and executing the day to day operations of the admissions department at Briar Cliff University. This includes all undergraduate and graduate admissions.

Nelson, Nic

Athletic Director

Nic Nelson was named the athletic director at Briar Cliff in March 2017. As athletic director, he oversees the University's 18-sport intercollegiate athletic program, which competes at the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) level. Prior to taking his current role, Nelson was the head men's basketball coach for six seasons. During his time as a head coach, he held the highest winning percentage of any coach in University history. His teams also consistently earned “NAIA Scholar Team” status for their high academic performance; proof of Nelson’s commitment to excellence both in competition and the classroom.