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Office of Vice President & General Counsel

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Office of Vice President & General Counsel

​The Office of Vice President & General Counsel provides guidance and legal counsel to the ATSU Board of Trustees, administration, faculty, and staff regarding matters intersecting with University business. The Office of Vice President & General Counsel leads the compliance program, facilitates and oversees the enterprise risk management process, manages all insurance matters including coverages and claims, and oversees institutional contract management. All ATSU personnel are invited and encouraged to contact our office for assistance on any matters affecting the University.

  • Staff +

    • Matthew R. Heeren
      Vice President & General Counsel

      Matthew R. Heeren, JD, graduated with a degree in communication science from Truman State University and a juris doctorate from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He has served as ATSU’s vice president & general counsel since 2008. Prior to joining ATSU, Mr. Heeren served as general counsel of the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations and deputy general counsel to the governor of the State of Missouri.

      Mr. Heeren serves on the board of directors for Chariton Valley Association, a non-profit organization assisting citizens of northeast Missouri with development disabilities, Kirksville Chamber of Commerce, Kirksville Regional Economic Development, Inc., and the Northern Missouri Futbol Club which supports local youth soccer.

      Dawn Shaffer
      Compliance Manager

      Dawn Shaffer has served as compliance manager at ATSU since 2015, and is a Certified Compliance and Ethics Professional (CCEP). Her previous work experience includes 11 years as a paralegal, four years in the President’s Office at Truman State University working with the university general counsel, and senior executive assistant at ATSU. Dawn attended Drake University and Coe College and has a BA in English.

      Ashlea Costello
      Executive Assistant

      Ashlea Costello has experience in both legal and insurance fields, with five years as a legal assistant, five years as a licensed insurance agent working in personal lines, and four years as an underwriting assistant for commercial lines. She was previously executive assistant for ATSU’s vice president for finance & administration/CFO, and has been executive assistant to the vice president & general counsel since 2017. Ashlea graduated with a degree in exercise science from Truman State University.

    • The vice president & general counsel represents the University in all legal matters. He provides legal counsel for the Board of Trustees, President, President’s Cabinet, and other senior administrators. ​

      The vice president & general counsel is also available to advise any member of the University community who has questions or concerns about anything affecting the University.

      The vice president & general counsel cannot provide legal guidance or representation to employees who have claims adverse to the University, or who have legal questions outside the scope of ATSU business or their employment.

  • Compliance +

    • ATSU’s compliance program supports the ATSU mission by promoting compliant and ethical behavior by all members of the University community. It continually advances adherence to local, state, and federal laws and regulatory requirements, and strives to create a culture of compliance across the entire University.

      The Office of Vice President & General Counsel does not assume the duties of compliance but rather coordinates efforts between departments, develops effective lines of communication, assesses policies and procedures, identifies gaps, provides training, and supports continuous compliance improvement across the University. ​

      ATSU’s compliance program is led by chief compliance officer, Matthew Heeren, and compliance manager, Dawn Shaffer.

  • Risk management +

    • Innovation and risk are linked in the pursuit of ATSU’s mission. To support innovative risk, the University must attentively focus on the prevention and mitigation of risks that could threaten ATSU’s strategic goals. The Office of Vice President & General Counsel, along with the Risk Management & Compliance Committee, is responsible for oversight of the University’s enterprise risk management process, and for monitoring and responding to emerging risks. ​

  • Insurance +

    • ​The Office of Vice President & General Counsel is responsible for overseeing and managing the complex array of university-wide insurance matters. It procures and maintains all University commercial insurance products, including workers’ compensation, general liability, auto, property insurance, cybersecurity, student accident coverage, and professional liability/malpractice. The Office of Vice President & General Counsel manages all insurance claims, and is a resource for all university insurance information.

      Upon request, the Office of Vice President & General Counsel will provide proof of insurance coverage (or “certificates of insurance”). ATSU is often asked to provide proof of insurance coverage by vendors with whom it has a contract or by employers of ATSU graduates.

      To request a certificate of insurance, please call or email Ashlea Costello at 660.626.2522 or

  • Contract management +

    • All University contracts must be approved as to legal form and sufficiency by Matthew Heeren, vice president & general counsel. Once approved, contracts are signed by one of three authorized university signatories: vice president for finance & administration/CFO, senior vice president–academic affairs, or president. Please be aware that only authorized signatories may sign contracts. ​

      The Office of Vice President & General Counsel is responsible for reviewing and approving contracts and routing them to the appropriate signatory. The signatory’s office returns the signed contract to the originator and electronically stores the contracts in Conga Contracts (formerly Novatus), ATSU’s contract management software program.

      To initiate the approval and signature process, email the contract along with a routing form (pdf) to Ashlea Costello at The contract routing form requires certain information and certifications, as well as signature by the responsible President’s Cabinet member or dean.

      For further details, please see ATSU Policy 10-204: Contract Review and Approval Procedure (pdf).

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