New Faces

Posted by Paula Paine on February 16, 2011 in Arizona, MBA, "Other News"

OU Welcomes New Administrators


A Navy helicopter pilot who also has incredible business experience, Dr. Kirk Wessel was initially hired to lead the business program at OU-Arizona and our MBA program nationwide. He is currently serving as acting dean of the School of Business.

Wessel has more than 12 years of experience in higher education teaching, leadership and community relations, with an additional 23 years of professional experience in business. Wessel came to OU-Arizona in the summer of 2010 from Westminster College (Salt Lake City, Utah), where he served as associate professor of business and chair of both the management and MBA programs. Not only is Wessel an experienced educator, he has a rich professional background, having served as a vice president for Associated Foods (UT), a partner with OCM, Incorporated (an organizational development firm located in Salt Lake City), a human resources manager for PEPSICO (Salt Lake City and Los Angeles) and a captain with the United States Navy and Naval Reserve. He also served as a state representative in Utah.

Captain Kirk, as his students fondly call him, says, “My strategy at the graduate program level is to bring students back to campus, to a certain extent, to make the experience more intimate. I want them to develop a peer-to-peer network, really get to know their faculty and use those teachers as resources as they go through their careers. We’re developing programs with those goals in mind.”

Wessel received his bachelor’s degree in engineering from the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis (MD) and earned a Master of Business Administration and a PhD in Business Policy and Strategy from the University of Utah.

Mary Vanis 

A desire for change and challenge led Dr. Mary Vanis to her duties as the new campus executive of OU-Arizona in September.

“My career at Maricopa was great,” says Vanis. “I wasn’t looking around, but I found myself drawn to OU’s leadership team. They are open to new ideas, have vision and offered me opportunities. I didn’t need to make a move. I was making good money, had a great position, but I wanted something challenging and wanted to be where I feel like I was value-added. OU™ represents that to me.”

Vanis came to Ottawa University from Maricopa Community Colleges, where she served as the director of the Center for Workforce Development for a combined seven years. In that capacity, she coordinated Maricopa’s planning, development, maintenance, implementation, and evaluation of occupational programs. Vanis is a 28-year veteran with the Maricopa Community Colleges and served in several key leadership roles, both within and outside the Maricopa system. She holds a PhD in Educational Administration from Northern Arizona University, in addition to master’s and bachelor’s degrees from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Vanis has been a member of the Governor’s Council on Workforce Policy since 2002 and serves on the Greater Phoenix Economic Council and Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce.

“There are a lot of things happening at Ottawa now that I believe will benefit from my strengths,” says Vanis. “For example, I come from a community college and I know how to help OU develop and expand on its partnerships with those schools.”