Stephen Farmer returns to Grounds as UVA’s first vice provost for enrollment
Farmer is currently vice provost for enrollment and undergraduate admissions at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Prior to his time at UNC, Farmer served as the senior assistant dean of admission at the University of Virginia. He is also an alumnus, having earned a master’s degree in English from the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
“Steve is a visionary and compassionate leader who brings the ideal experience to the University,” UVA Provost Liz Magill said. “As UVA’s first vice provost for enrollment, he will lead a team focused on improving our applicants and our students’ experiences. Steve has a proven track record of improving diversity and opportunity, creating seamless student support, and has grand ambitions to build on UVA’s extraordinary strengths. For Steve, it all starts with serving the student. We are thrilled to welcome him to UVA.”
Farmer began as senior associate director of undergraduate admissions at UNC in 2000, gaining progressive responsibility until his appointment as vice provost in 2011. As vice provost, he is responsible for developing and implementing UNC’s enrollment strategy; overseeing a team of colleagues in Admissions, Scholarships and Student Aid and the University Registrar; and collaborating with campus leaders to strengthen UNC’s culture of care.
Under Farmer’s leadership, Enrollment and Undergraduate Admissions developed nationally recognized programs fostering access and success, exceeding enrollment goals for rural and low-income North Carolinians in the process. He was highly successful in fundraising for efforts to strengthen diversity, excellence and opportunity, collaborating with colleagues to secure $179 million in new commitments for need-based student aid, including gifts for a new program for middle-income students, as well as $25 million in grants to support UNC’s partnership with 14 North Carolina community colleges and the Carolina College Advising Corps, which serves 15,000 seniors in 78 high schools statewide. Farmer led the way on operational improvements, optimizing performance by developing shared resources, processes and services and deploying data to facilitate enrollment decision-making and improve student aid budgeting. He also helped the university envision a new advising structure for undergraduate students and strengthen support for first-generation college students and others who have historically been underrepresented and marginalized in higher education.
“During his 20 years of service, Steve has distinguished himself as an invaluable member of our community, continuously seeking to expand the affordability and accessibility of Carolina while maintaining our standards of academic excellence and enriching thousands of lives in the process,” Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz said. “He has been one of Carolina’s strongest champions for undergraduate students and their success, and we will miss him.”
Farmer will be the inaugural vice provost for enrollment at the University, bringing together the offices of Undergraduate Admission, the University Registrar and Student Financial Services. Reporting to the provost, Farmer will be charged with providing an enhanced and cohesive enrollment experience for students throughout all phases of the student lifecycle.
“Enrollment and admissions at an institution like ours are complicated, but Steve has such a wealth of experience and a talent for relationship-building that he’s a perfect fit for this new leadership role,” UVA President Jim Ryan said. “I’m excited to work with him and the offices he’ll lead as they further shape and support our amazing and diverse student body.”
Farmer will develop and implement humane and innovative strategies to attract applicants, recruit admitted students to the University and support their financial and enrollment needs as students. He is expected to take a caring, systematic and data-driven approach to anticipating the changing higher education landscape, demographic shifts and student needs.
“I am deeply grateful for the chance to serve and lead at UVA,” Farmer said. “I admire the way the University is thinking about what it means to be a great public institution, in service to the people, today and in the future. Working together and with others across Grounds, our teams in enrollment will advance the mission of the University by strengthening the student body, improving the student experience, and serving students, families, and communities across the commonwealth and beyond. We have a great opportunity to deepen our contribution and to help the University educate the next generation of leaders.”
Farmer grew up in rural Virginia, the son of caring, hard-working parents who valued education but did not have the chance to attend college. They modeled a generous and welcoming approach to all at a time when segregation was still in practice and supported in the South. His family’s commitment to a better and more inclusive future, and his own experience as a first-generation college student at an elite university, shaped Farmer’s approach to admissions, student aid and the student experience. His leadership was pivotal in closing the gap in graduation rates between low-income students and others on the Chapel Hill campus and in strengthening the socioeconomic and racial and ethnic diversity of the student body.
“It was clear to the search committee how Steve has lived his values – of humanity, integrity and empathy – in every choice he has made as a leader,” search chair and School of Law Dean Risa Goluboff said. “The search attracted a broad pool of extremely accomplished enrollment leaders, and Steve impressed us with how much he achieved at UNC, his attention to the needs of students and his exciting vision for the future of enrollment here at UVA.”
Farmer credits his colleagues for these successes, citing their commitment, creativity, and diversity of background and perspective. Under his leadership, UNC’s enrollment offices have become magnets for talent, and they are known for collaboration, innovation, and care for students and everyone who comes their way. He hopes to rely on these experiences to help the offices that will work together under his leadership.
“Smart, hard-working, and good-hearted people can always do more together than they can do alone, especially if they have a shared sense of mission, as the enrollment offices do at UVA,” Farmer said. “When I met these talented teams – the registrar, Student Financial Services and Admission – I was struck by their sense of purpose and their care for one another, their students and the University. They’ve worked hard to build a strong foundation, and I look forward to exploring new opportunities with them.
“At its heart, our job is to honor the trust that students place in us – by helping them find their way, believe that they belong, and make the most of their great and unique gifts. When we do these things well, our students will thrive, and they’ll leave us ready to make the difference they’re called to make in the world.”
Farmer will be joined in Charlottesville by his wife, the Rev. Susan Steinberg, a pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA). They and their golden retriever, Theo, plan on frequent visits from their adult children – daughter Anna, son Henry and daughter-in-law Emma.