In February, Sheila Sieradzki was named director of Elkhart community partnerships at IU South Bend. The new position reflects the university’s interest in strengthening its programs and presence in Elkhart County.
Her leadership will help IU South Bend leverage its Elkhart Center location in concert with its faculty expertise so IU South Bend can be a more integrated and vital part of the community. A grant from the Community Foundation of Elkhart County supplied funding to support the first three years of this permanent position.
One of the first initiatives I am working on is a series of Chancellor’s Industry Roundtable discussions, designed so we can hear directly from businesses on what their needs are, and where IU South Bend can have the greatest impact, Sieradzki said. We will take that information back to the deans and faculty to see what new programs we can launch. The big question is: what is the unmet need?
Sieradzki already has a network of contacts in the community from her previous professional experiences, and these connections help make her a particularly apt choice for the position. After graduating from Riley High School and then Purdue University, Sieradzki worked for several years in Evansville, Sacramento, and St. Louis, returning to Michiana in 2009 to work with JPMorgan Chase Bank, first as a personal banker and then in the realm of business banking.
A switch to Centier Bank from 2012 to 2019 found her in a community engagement role, and she helped establish Centier’s presence in this market. It was during this time that she solidified many of her primary connections in the business community. From there, she ventured into the nonprofit sector, serving as vice president of client empowerment services for Lacasa Inc. from 2019 to 2021.
When this position came up, it was a perfect fit, Sieradzki said. I have the Elkhart connections and I’ve built a lot of trust there.
“In this position, Sheila will be IU South Bend’s visible and active representative in Elkhart County, said Chancellor Susan Elrod. She will help us expand our presence and open doors for new collaborative partnerships and programs. The potential for enhancing and building new relationships in that community is tremendous, and now is the perfect time for us to explore these prospects further.”
Sieradzki’s priorities include fostering the development of academic programs, enhancing continuing education and economic development programs, and identifying more experiential learning and internship opportunities in Elkhart for IU South Bend students. She will also interface with K-12 school leaders to foster new program development led by faculty in IU South Bend’s schools and colleges. This initiative will also allow for enhanced engagement with IU and IU South Bend alumni, donors and friends in Elkhart County.
As she continues to establish additional relationships with Elkhart County CEOs, CFOs, and HR managers, Sieradzki is building a network which will only grow stronger, more stable, and more visible.
Our longer-term vision is to gather everyone together for a fall vision kick-off,’ in which Chancellor Elrod will explain how and where we think IU South Bend can best serve Elkhart County, Sieradzki said. It’s really about becoming and remaining relevant in the community.