MIU hires two new executive leaders

In a move to strengthen the university’s leadership team as online enrollment soars and the number of academic programs continues expanding, MIU has hired two new executive leaders, Bill Smith as vice president of online education and digital transformation and Chris Muller as chief operating officer.

MIU President John Hagelin

These hires come as the result of a search process that yielded more than 50 applications.

“Bill and Chris bring an enormous amount of knowledge and experience to our already talented leadership team,” said MIU President John Hagelin. “They are absolutely wonderful human beings, very empathetic, almost tailor made for our community and our culture.”

With their support, Hagelin said, he will be able to give more focus to being a knowledge leader. “This means training our faculty, leading retreats, going deeply into our foundational knowledge,” Hagelin said. “I want to help ensure that everyone who is teaching here and sharing knowledge with our students is really developed in their own experience and intellectual understanding. I also want to be more of a global spokesman for MIU and put MIU more on the global map. That’s where my capabilities are greatest.”

Bill Smith, vice president of online education and digital transformation

Bill Smith, MIU’s new vice president of online education and digital transformation

Bill brings three decades of experience in strategic enrollment management, student affairs, academic affairs, program development, fiscal planning and accountability, faculty development, and building domestic and international partnerships. 

Just before coming to MIU, Bill was in the Middle East on a mission to train a new generation of artists and storytellers as the Industry Learning Director at NEOM, where he oversaw the development and delivery of creative media programs for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s emerging film, television, animation, video game, and digital publishing industries. 

Before that, he served seven years as president and CEO of Columbia College Hollywood (now California College of Arizona State University), an independent liberal arts college focused on the arts and creative media.

He also spent eighteen years at Full Sail University in Florida, where he was the director of its flagship recording arts degree programs. He was a member of the team that helped grow the university from 200 to 20,000 students, and he was awarded Full Sail’s Top Gun Award for Outstanding Educator and Full Sail’s Lifetime Achievement Award. From Full Sail he traveled to Los Angeles for an appointment as vice president of academic affairs at the Los Angeles Film School, where he worked for five years.

Bill’s career began as a working musician and audio engineer, with a list of clients that included Disney, Universal, Warner Brothers, indie labels, and independent artists. His desire to share his passion with younger talent led to teaching courses in sound recording and music as an adjunct professor and from there to a successful career in higher education administration.

Bill describes himself as an avid bicyclist and motorcyclist, a music-loving audiophile, a gamer, a film enthusiast, and hopelessly obsessed with emerging technology. He and his wife, the award-winning screenwriter Annie DeYoung, have one daughter and one grandson.

“I am really, really looking forward to collaborating with everyone to help the university grow in support of its mission and ensure that its next fifty years are even better than the first,” Bill said. “The opportunity to take our message to a wider audience around the globe is thrilling.”

“Coming from Los Angeles to Fairfield is a wonderful transition,” he added. “I get a lot of questions about that. Frankly, I already feel right at home. I’m thrilled to be part of this remarkable community and to build a life here.”

Chris Muller, chief operating officer

Chris Muller, new chief operating officer

Chris, from Gibsonia, Pennsylvania, brings sixteen years of experience in human resources, leadership development, employee engagement, and organizational design to MIU.

“I’m genuinely excited about MIU’s focus on Consciousness-Based learning,” Muller said. “From an operations standpoint, I see a wealth of opportunities to streamline processes, enhance efficiency, and ensure that MIU’s operational backbone supports its unique educational approach.”

Muller with his son, Jaxson, age 7.

Chris says he has always taken a people-centric approach. “I believe that by understanding and catering to the motivations and aspirations of each team member, we can create a more cohesive and effective operational structure,” he said. “I’m eager to bring this blend of operational efficiency a people-first mindset to MIU.”

Chris worked most recently as vice president of personal finance for London-based XLMedia, a leading global digital media company. Prior to that he spent four years at Highmark, a large non-profit healthcare company and health insurer, where he worked as director of operations support, director of learning and development, and manager of talent development.

“On a personal note, my twelve-year commitment to vegetarianism and my appreciation for meditation and holistic practices align well with MIU’s values,” Chris said. “It feels great to be in a place that not only strives for operational and academic excellence but also emphasizes holistic growth.”

Chris and his wife, Julia, have three children, ages 7, 3, and 1.

Outside of work, Chris enjoys playing basketball and biking when possible. He and his family love the outdoors and are usually hiking or at some kind of park with the kids on the weekend. Chris is also a movie enthusiast, particularly fond of horror and action genres, although comedy remains his ultimate favorite. Additionally, he’s a dedicated Cleveland sports fan, specifically the Browns and the Cavaliers.

Chris holds a bachelor’s of business administration in finance and an MBA in finance from Cleveland State University.

“I’m ready to collaborate, optimize, and help MIU achieve its operational and educational goals, always keeping our people at the heart of every decision,” Chris said.

Banner photo by Craig Pearson