President, Shenandoah University, Winchester
Tracy Fitzsimmons thinks regionally. Through her involvement on GO Virginia’s Region 8 council, secretary of Loudoun Education Foundation and vice chair on the board of Shenandoah Telecommunications Co. (aka Shentel), she has connections throughout the Shenandoah Valley and into Northern Virginia.
She also focuses on regional connections in her role as the first woman president of Shenandoah University since its 1875 founding.
Fitzsimmons began as the dean of the private university’s College of Arts and Sciences in 2001, was named vice president of academic affairs in 2002, and became the university’s senior vice president in 2006, before her 2008 appointment as president.
“It’s pretty unusual in higher ed to have more than two roles at one institution,” she says. “I feel really lucky that Shenandoah has a different approach.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Fitzsimmons worked to retool operations so that the university was able to reopen its campus for the fall 2020 semester.
Shenandoah expanded student housing to accommodate social distancing, adopted hybrid classes of virtual and in-person learning based on students’ needs, and regularly tested students, faculty and staff for COVID. When vaccines became available, Shenandoah University hosted a mass vaccine site in its athletics center.
Fitzsimmons called the experience “one of the most fulfilling things I have been a part of.”