Shari L. Olson brings thirty years of experience as an educator, coach, consultant, and administrator in higher education. She currently is serving as the President of South Mountain Community College, a member of the Maricopa County Community College District. Throughout her career she has remained committed to strengths-based leadership principles and developing the best in her students and colleagues. In June 2010, the Board of Trustees of Minnesota State Colleges and Universities named her Interim President at Anoka Technical College. Prior to this assignment, she worked as system director of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) for Minnesota State Colleges and Universities at the Office of the Chancellor. She also served as the President of Eastern Wyoming College.
From 1995-2007, while at Northland Community and Technical College, Dr. Olson served in various leadership roles across the college. In her final leadership position as Vice President of Planning and Administrative Services, Dr. Olson was responsible for the leadership of integrated planning and budgeting, business services, facilities and building maintenance, information technology services, and auxiliary services. Prior to this assignment, she was responsible for external partnerships and education program development with business and industry, college-wide diversity initiatives, and technology leadership. Northland is a multi-campus college in East Grand Forks and Thief River Falls, MN.
Dr. Olson also served as a faculty member at United Tribes Technical College, a tribal college in Bismarck, ND. While at UTTC she developed an associate degree program in Early Childhood Education (1991-1994) and completed her master’s degree research on learning styles of adult students. During this time she also served as Faculty Senate president and chairperson of the Curriculum Committee. Other experiences in education include: service as Volleyball coach at Northland Community and Technical College; director of a Carl Perkins’ displaced homemaker/single parent program; Food and Nutrition faculty member; high school Human Development instructor; and Vocational Resource Room instructor at a juvenile lock-up facility.
Dr. Olson is a first generation college student and completed her Bachelor of Science degree in 1983. She received her Master of Science degree from North Dakota State University in 1991, and her Doctor of Philosophy degree from the University of North Dakota in 2004. Shari has passion for leadership, and was selected to participate in the League for Innovation, Executive Leadership Institute in Phoenix, AZ, and the American Community College Trustees’ Leadership Academy in Washington, D.C. Dr. Olson has also attended the National Institute for Leadership Development and Leaders for Change. She has been a presenter at several conferences, including: International Leadership Conference for Post-Secondary Leaders, League for Innovation Learning College Summit, Women in Higher Education Regional, American Technical Education Association, National Society for Experiential Education, and National Council for Workforce Education.
Each summer Dr. Olson coordinates a walk for cancer research in Minnesota. Over the past 19 years, she has donated all proceeds, totaling more than $29,000 to the University of Minnesota, Women’s Cancer Research fund. She has received numerous honors during her career, including the Minnesota State College Student Association 2011 President of the Year Award, 2008 Exemplary International Leader Award from The Chair Academy, induction into Phi Kappa Phi, and Phi Upsilon Omicron honor societies, honorary induction into Phi Theta Kappa in 2011, and graduation with honors from North Dakota State University.
Dr. Olson is the proud mother of Willie Richard Olson Nikunen. She is married to Richard H. Nikunen Jr., who is a faculty member in Psychology and serves as the Head Men’s Basketball Coach at Northland Community and Technical College.