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Q&A with Joyce Lopes, Western’s new VP for business and financial affairs

Current VP for business and financial affairs, Rich Van Den Hul, will retire after serving Western's community for 10 years

Portrait of Joyce Lopes, who will assume her new role as Western Washington University’s new Vice President for Business and Financial Affairs on July 1, 2021. Rich Van Den Hul, the current VP for Business and Financial Affairs at Western, will retire after serving for 10 years. // Photo courtesy of Joyce Lopes

On April 3 President Randhawa announced the hiring of Joyce Lopes as the new vice president of business and financial affairs. Lopes will assume her new role on July 1. 

Lopes has spent nearly the last decade working in the California State University system. At Humboldt State University, Lopes was the vice president for administrative affairs. She will be leaving her current role as the vice president of administrative finance at Sonoma State University to join Western’s leadership.

Lopes said she is dedicated to public higher education and hopes to have an impact on the Western community as she takes on her new leadership position. 

Q: Why did you want to come to Western?

A: When the position opened at Western Washington, it was really intriguing to myself and to my husband, because the location is fabulous, and because Western Washington is a campus that's so well aligned to my own values; [it’s] a public, liberal arts college that’s serving the community, that's focused on diversity.

I've spent my career in higher education, and so I was really excited about being able to continue my career at a campus that holds those values dear, and to be able to work in a state where I feel like I might be able to affect a bit more change.

Q: What will you miss the most leaving your current institution?

A: Well, the folks I work with, obviously. It's always about the people. I've had a terrific team at Humboldt, and a terrific team at Sonoma State. I've been nearly 10 years in the CSU and [have] many colleagues across the 23 campuses. 

It's bittersweet because, you know, it's hard to leave the people you're close to and friends with. But that being said, I know we're still all in higher education, and we'll still stay in touch and I have them all on my speed dial. I'll look them up.

Q: What is something about you that I might not pick up right away? 

A: I mean, I care deeply about higher education and about public higher education, and ensuring that everyone who wants to pursue an academic career has that opportunity. [And also] that we find a way in higher education to provide the access, to provide the success components and the support that they need.

I am what I call a WYSIWYG, ‘What you see is what you get.’ So I'm pretty transparent, pretty straightforward. I try to bring humor to everything we do, but [I] really care deeply about the people.

Q: What do you like to do when you are not working?

A: I love crafting — My perfect day would be on a Sunday. I would get to sleep in so when I go to bed, I put on what I call my princess mask. The sunlight doesn't wake you up in the morning. Get up and watch “Sunday morning” — Go walk on the beach and collect my rocks and shells. Come back and use them to make some craft project. And then have somebody else worry about dinner.

Q: What are some of your roles and responsibilities as the new VP for Business and Financial Affairs?

A: If you asked me, ‘what is the role of this division?’ When I think about the university, I think about the university as a body. The academics are the brains and student affairs [is] the heart. We’re the spinal cord, we keep everything up! We keep the information flowing back and forth. 

Most of the time, you don't even think about us, right? I mean, people don't think about their spinal cords, but we're the ones that are there quietly in the background, supporting academics and student affairs to ensure that our students get the education and the support that they need to be successful.

Q: Do you have any goals for your first year at Western?

A: You know, what can I do to find synergies to create partnerships across the community, across the region, across the state to ensure that those who don't have [as] loud of a voice get access to the same resources as everyone else.

Q: Is there anything you would like the Western community to know as you assume your new role?

A: That I am so excited to join the Viking family. That I will bring my energy to support and continue to move forward the good work that has been going on there for so many years, I'm so impressed with the leadership at Western Washington. [And] I just want to do everything I can to support the campus. 

Reach out to me. Let me know what I can do to help. I'd love to meet with students, I'd love to meet with faculty and staff. I just hope that in my time, you know, in the first few months there, that I will get to meet lots of folks and see how I can help support you.

Zoë Parker is a campus news reporter for The Front and a third-year public relations student minoring in international business and the German language. Her work focuses on Western’s budget, administration and Board of Trustees, as well as other campus-related news. You can contact her at

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