Rucker named Vanderbilt University’s chief human resources officer

studio headshot of Cleo Rucker
Cleo Rucker (Vanderbilt University)

Cleo D. Rucker, who has worked over the past decade to build strong workplace culture, support employee growth and meet organizational goals at Vanderbilt University, has been promoted to the new position of chief human resources officer.

“Vanderbilt University is firmly committed to recruiting and retaining the very best staff, and creating this dedicated position is an important step in the process,” Chancellor Daniel Diermeier said. “Cleo Rucker has driven major cultural and operational improvements within Human Resources while partnering with senior leadership to achieve the university’s critical business objectives. I am excited for the future of Human Resources under his transformational leadership.”

Rucker, who has served as senior director of HR Consulting, Employee, and Labor Relations for the past three years, will assume to his new position by mid-May. The move occurs as Laura Nairon steps away from her interim role as associate vice chancellor for people and business services. She is leaving Vanderbilt to pursue the next phase of her career.

“Since joining Vanderbilt in 2011, Cleo has become an outstanding resource for developing and maintaining a positive and rewarding work experience for our staff,” said Vice Chancellor for Administration Eric Kopstain. “He has identified opportunities for growth and process improvement to drive relevant and meaningful change. I’m grateful for his collaboration and leadership in the days ahead. We also want to recognize and thank Laura Nairon for her service during a period of transition.”

Among Rucker’s accomplishments:

  • guiding the university toward a proactive, customer-focused human resource organization.
  • launching multiple training programs that increase employees’ potential leadership within departments.
  • serving as chief negotiator or second chair in contract negotiations.
  • implementing the university’s Family and Medical Leave Act process after its legal separation from Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
  • championing the incorporation of diversity and inclusion in all aspects of university human resources and the greater campus.

“Cleo has led by example to help create a culture of respect and innovation on campus,” said Dr. André L. Churchwell, vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion and chief diversity officer. “His strong support during the university’s series of listening sessions on racial justice is just one example of his active commitment to an inclusive community. I am proud to be a partner in his efforts to elevate our ‘One Vanderbilt’ community.”

Rucker earned a bachelor of arts from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. He then enrolled at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where he received his law degree. He also has a master of religion from Trevecca University.

Before coming to Vanderbilt, he was an attorney for Milwaukee Public Schools, Labor Relations Division.