DeJong’s move to HR came as a surprise to everyone, even him


Executive Vice Provost David DeJong has taken over as interim vice chancellor of Human Resources after Cheryl Johnson quietly resigned earlier this month.

The announcement came as a surprise to DeJong, who told the July 17 Staff Council meeting that he had come to seek their advice on new directions for human resources.

“A week ago today, this was not on my radar,” DeJong said. “I want to be honest with you. I am really spinning.” 

DeJong officially took on the role July 15 after Johnson announced her resignation on July 12. 

Johnson, according to @Pitt, will be “returning to her home state of Michigan” following her resignation to become chief human resources officer for the Battle Creek Public School District. 

DeJong said the chancellor asked him to start as interim for “continuity.” There will be a future national search to replace Johnson, he added.

In the meantime, DeJong plans to coordinate a large number of meetings with various University leadership, akin to town hall meetings.

“I hope you’re excited,” DeJong said. “What I’d like to do … is engage you in a pop-up planning session. I’d like as much feedback as possible” on the following four areas:

  1. “What is HR doing well?”
  1. “Where is HR challenged? What are bottlenecks? What are things you’d like to have improved?” He said he wants to focus on provision of services.
  1. “What are two or three major actions that we can take to address these issues?”
  1. “How can you help HR address those challenges?”

DeJong suggested that Staff Council provide him with 1.5-hour time windows to set up a meeting with anyone from Staff Council who wishes to attend, “and bring your friends.”

Andy Stephany, president of Staff Council, said: “The Staff Council has had a long working relationship” with Human Resources, including previous director Ronald Frisch, whom they have honored with an annual award for staff development. 

He praised Johnson: “Cheryl had open ears to anything and everything we wanted to talk about” and “Cheryl was our advocate for the paid parental leave policy,” which Staff Council conceived and pushed toward University approval several years ago.

Tammeka Banks, Staff Council vice president of finance, said: “She also didn’t have the connections (Frisch) had — when to push the gas, when to push the brake.”

DeJong joined the University in 1989 as an assistant economics professor in the Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences; he was promoted to professor in 2001 and to chair of the Department of Economics in 2006.

In 2010, he joined the Office of the Provost. As executive vice provost, he serves as the liaison between human resources and the units in the provost’s area. “This includes making sure that each area has a staffing plan and that the plans are followed when staff actions take place,” DeJong told @Pitt. 

Marty Levine and Donovan Harrell are writers for the University Times.