Austin Peay State University
Clarksville, TN – Since 2013, Derek van der Merwe, Austin Peay State University vice president for Advancement, Communication and Strategic Initiatives, has worked to strengthen the public perception of the University and to transform it into one of the South’s premier public institutions.
In that time, he has spearheaded the formation of Austin Peay’s 10-year strategic plan and overhauled the University’s athletic and academic brand identities.
Earlier today, the University of Arizona, a PAC 12 Conference institution with 44,831 students, named van der Merwe as its new assistant vice president and chief operating officer of athletics.
“Like the administrators at the University of Arizona, I noticed Derek’s talent and strong leadership abilities almost immediately,” Dr. Alisa White, APSU president said. “That’s why I moved him into a larger role shortly after I arrived. Now, he’s taking another major step forward in his career by joining a larger institution. I’m proud of the way he helped transform this University, and I wish him well on this new journey.”
Van der Merwe arrived at Austin Peay in 2013 as the University’s new athletic director. He took over the program from legendary APSU Coach Dave Loos, who’d served as both men’s basketball coach and athletic director for 16 years. Van der Merwe had previously served as Central Michigan University’s deputy athletics director and chief operating officer.
Early into his tenure, van der Merwe oversaw a brand identity redesign for Austin Peay’s athletics department. He organized a committee of University officials, students, alumni, and community members, and this committee worked with the nationally recognized graphic design firm Joe Bosack and Co. to develop a new athletics logo. This logo, featuring a more competitive-looking Governor mascot, proved to be extremely popular among the University community.
In 2015, White asked van der Merwe to transition from athletics to lead Austin Peay’s Division of Advancement, Communication and Strategic Initiatives. He oversaw the development of the University’s “Leading through Excellence” Strategic Plan. The ambitious plan’s five goals include enhancing communication, expanding diversity, growing enrollment, building student success and sustaining University growth. Three years into the plan, the University has made significant progress toward these goals, including two consecutive years of record freshman enrollments.
Van der Merwe also worked to strengthen the overall University brand at Austin Peay. He contracted with the national higher education marketing firm Stamats, which is in the process of developing a new brand guide for the entire University.
“I am so proud of Austin Peay, and I am so proud of what this University has accomplished in the last few years,” van der Merwe said. “There is not one area of the University that has not been transformed by the vision and passion of President Alisa White, and it has been an honor to be a part of her team. Having the opportunity to participate with a campus community to create a comprehensive University strategic plan, and then to see it take root and flourish has been the highlight of my professional career. I will truly miss the hard working and loyal people that are a part of this great community who strive diligently to serve our students.”
The University will conduct a national search for a new vice president for communication and strategic initiatives. Earlier this week, the University also initiated a national search for a new athletics director through the Collegiate Sports Associates. Austin Peay will use the firm as a recruiting and screening committee.
Collegiate Sports Associates will narrow a candidate pool for on-campus interviews and engagement with stakeholders. An APSU advisory group will develop a list of strengths and weaknesses of each candidate interviewed on campus for President White to consider when she selects the next director of athletics.