Division of Student Affairs
2012 VPSA Opening Remarks
September 12, 2012
“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” – Thomas A. Edison
During my first week at Bridgewater State, I was honored to address incoming transfer students on three occasions. I shared the above quote each time. Aside from being an attempt to remind them of what it takes to harness opportunity, Thomas Edison’s words serve as a moniker for the beginning of my career as a Bear. Challenging and supporting our students from matriculation to graduation is the reason I joined this community. I look forward to the “work” and know I will partner with a number of committed colleagues on this journey. A big reason why I am here is the success and experience of BSU Student Affairs professionals. We will work to share the accomplishments of each department throughout the year. Today, I want to share some of my early feelings and talk about our near future together.
Reflecting on the past month and my experience with BSU students one word comes to mind—grateful. Our students present as genuinely grateful for the opportunity to earn a degree, be selected as a community leader and even to simply have the door held for them. I call this “good home training” but the BSU community has been referring to this as the reason we love it here. I too am grateful for the opportunity to work in our Division.
A question that I have continually been asked is what “my plan” or “vision” is for the Division of Student Affairs. Working hard to avoid answering, I hope no one has been disheartened by my lack of response. I do have a more direct answer I would like to share. My vision for our work is that we find our vision together. Our work is to support the institution mission and five core values. How we accomplish our work is the dynamic essence of Student Affairs. I ask that each of us conducts a self-assessment of how and why we do our work. To improve our practice and evolve as a Division, we must not lose our best programs and efforts to support students. At the same time, we must look to the future and make room for it.
To that end, I want to outline Divisional committees and working groups that will help lead us into the future.
I have asked Cathy Holbrook to continue her work as the Chair of the Assessment Committee. The work of the committee will be three pronged. First, the group will continue to work with our departments to develop skill sets and design evidence-based assessments that drive improved practice. Second, the committee will work to develop mechanisms to share our outcomes to audiences in and out of Student Affairs. Third, the committee will propose a more equitable manner to distribute the Student Support Fee. We are fortunate to have a $200K pool of money that is intended for the direct benefit of our students. The majority of this funding will be allocated through a process design by the Assessment Committee and approved by me.
The second committee will be focused on Professional and Divisional Development. The intent of this group is to ensure we are maximizing our travel and development funds to improve the student experience. I have asked this group to approach its work in three overarching ways. Examine and document our current practice, identify shortcomings in our practice, and develop a plan to distribute future out of state travel funds. Cindy Kane will be leading this effort along with input from all of you.
One of the most attractive aspects of BSU is the focus on social justice. This critical work needs to have a higher profile and focus within our Division. I have asked Lee Forest to develop and lead a third group that will distribute funds for programming and initiatives related to our social justice work. The $20k fund is just the beginning and I hope we have the ability to grow this fund in the future.
The appropriate use of technology helps us to increase productivity and at times enhance our student connections. Ed Cabellon will lead a fourth group that will lead our technology efforts. I have asked him to gain an understanding of how technology is used in each of your areas, identify opportunities to introduce technology, and work with Information Technology to improve our practice. The group work includes social media efforts but will delve into data management, our website presence and beyond.
The final committee will focus on Alumni and Development. What is incredibly evident is the love and affection our alumni have for BSU. Many of these folks’ experience was partially shaped by you. How we manage those relationships beyond graduation and develop opportunities to connect alumni to our practice is imperative. Beth Moriarty will be developing a plan to assess our capacity to friend and fund raise. In addition, she will formalize deeper connections to our colleagues working in Alumni and Development, establish an on-going Divisional committee, and execute a plan that ingrains this effort into the consciousness of our entire Division.
I can go on and outline the many initiatives that will be executed this year and beyond but I want to conclude with a few closing reflections. Please take time each week to reflect on how you are contributing to the matriculation, experience maximization and graduation of our students. This is the reason we have jobs!
Along with all of you, I believe collaboration is imperative to our success. Some of our work that is tagged with being “collaborative” all too often falls short. In reality, some of this work can be better defined as informing, communicating, or cooperating. I would like us to adopt Cook & Lewis’s definition of collaborative partnerships. They view it as a “culture in which all participants are viewed as equal partners who play equally important roles and have significant contributions to make.” Using this as a guide, I look forward to the innovative and improved practice that will result from these types of collaborative partnerships within and across campus.
In conclusion, I want to thank you for making me feel at home here. I realize I have A LOT to learn about your operations and you as an individual. I hope to continue my dual role as a colleague and “extreme listener.” Please don’t hesitate to contact Doris to set a time for us to chat. I wish us all the best moving forward.
My remarks will be posted on the Division’s professional development blog and we will send out the link. We want to use this tool to increase our ability to share among colleagues.