Briar Cliff University names Rachelle Karstens as New University President

President Rachelle Karstens

Sioux City, IA – Briar Cliff University announced today the appointment of Rachelle Karstens as the 11th president of the University. Karstens, who has been serving as interim president at Briar Cliff, will officially assume her new role effective immediately.

“Rachelle Karstens is an authentic leader and visionary with a passion for ensuring Briar Cliff remains a top choice for academic excellence,” says Steven Freeman, chair of the Briar Cliff Board of Trustees. “Her proven background in higher education, law and fundraising along with her commitment to Briar Cliff’s Franciscan values will position our university for continued success.”

Karstens began her career as an associate attorney and assistant prosecutor before establishing her own legal practice in Montezuma, Iowa. A passion for higher education led Karstens to philanthropy roles at the University of Iowa Foundation and Indian Hills Community College, where she served as executive director for philanthropy and alumni relations in charge of the college’s endowment and administration of scholarships. In May 2017, Karstens joined Briar Cliff as chief of staff before her appointment as executive vice president and then interim president.

“Briar Cliff University is an extraordinary institution with a long tradition of helping students achieve successful outcomes. I am both honored and excited with this appointment and the opportunity to work with the incredible students, faculty, staff, alumni and supporters of the Briar Cliff community,” says Karstens. “Together, we will ensure Briar Cliff remains a pillar of educational excellence and Franciscan values, today and well into the future.”

A first-generation college graduate and the first in her family to receive an advanced degree, Karstens is a lifelong learner, who is currently pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in Education at Drake University in Des Moines. She also holds a Juris Doctorate from the University of Iowa College of Law and a Bachelor of Arts from Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa. Karstens is also active in multiple organizations, serving on Mercy Medical Center Child Advocacy Center’s Angels in Blue and the Board of Directors for Leadership Siouxland among others. In addition, her work has appeared in numerous publications and she has served as a guest speaker at conferences across the country, speaking on a variety of legal and philanthropy topics.

"As interim president of Briar Cliff University, Rachelle Karstens has already demonstrated her leadership and a number of other fine qualities that make her a good fit for the position on a permanent basis,” Sister Kate Katoski, President of the Sisters of St. Francis of Dubuque, said in a statement. “She is a person of faith who brings a passion for education and excellence to the position, and she is well-respected on campus for the work she has already done in previous leadership roles.”

Karstens was selected after a nationwide search for a president who exemplified Briar Cliff’s mission and Catholic Franciscan values of service, caring and openness to all. In addition, the university sought a president with a successful fundraising background, which is a vital component to positioning Briar Cliff in the future.

“Like all institutions of higher education, increasing enrollment, retention, philanthropy and community opportunities are vital to Briar Cliff’s future,” adds Freeman. “Under Ms. Karstens’ leadership, we will tackle these challenges and build upon Briar Cliff’s strong tradition. We are confident Briar Cliff is well poised for success with her leading the way.”

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