The new Vice President for Student Affairs will join the institution at a critical and exciting juncture in its history: reputation and reach is on the rise, the student academic profile is becoming more competitive, the staff and faculty are excellent, the College leadership is engaged, community relationships are strong, and there is a heightened sense of school pride on campus. To support this momentum, the VPSA will need to address the following opportunities and challenges during the first years of his or her tenure:
Provide visionary leadership for the Division of Student Affairs.
As the chief student affairs officer, the VPSA must be a strategic and visionary leader with a thorough understanding of major trends, challenges, and best practices in student affairs. S/he will work collaboratively to implement the priorities of the College’s strategic plan by leading a proactive, nimble, and responsive student affairs division that is united around the College’s needs and aspirations. The VPSA must be innovative in finding ways to support the academic life of the institution while nurturing student personal growth and development. S/he will provide leadership in the development, implementation, and evaluation of policies and regulations pertaining to student life, and will spearhead ongoing assessment, evaluation, and improvement of student affairs programs and services.
Work across departments and divisions to promote a fully integrated student experience.
The VPSA will work to support the academic, social, emotional, and physical elements of student success and development. Few offices on campus have as broad and consequential a set of constituent groups as the division of student affairs, so s/he must seek partnerships across the campus. In a naturally siloed-environment, the VPSA will work deliberately to collaborate with the Provost, other administrators, and faculty, as well as departments across the university including: facilities, development, enrollment, communications, and finance. S/he will promote the vision of a fully integrated student experience that creatively merges student and academic life. The incoming VPSA will help students strike the right balance between the rigor of the classroom and the challenges outside, providing extracurricular and co-curricular opportunities for them to be responsible young adults and active citizens within and beyond the College community. This includes building on the existing living-learning community structure and working with community leaders to develop and manage co-curricular learning initiatives and outcomes.
Support an increasingly diverse student body and build an inclusive environment.
The next VPSA will work to foster a culture in which all students recognize and benefit from the educational and cultural value of a campus that is growing in diversity with regard to race, gender, academic preparation, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, physical ability, and gender identity. With a strong foundation, the VPSA, in collaboration with others including the Chief Diversity Officer/Associate Vice President for Human Resources, Diversity, and Inclusion, will envision new programming that encourages student social engagement focused on bringing people together across lines of difference. The VPSA will lead efforts to maintain a safe and secure campus environment and promote a culture where students learn to respect differences, take responsibility for their actions, and exercise leadership in inclusivity. This includes not only responding to, but anticipating the changing social and academic needs of each generation of incoming students.
Manage and develop an exceptionally strong student affairs team.
In a division with highly experienced staff and a strong sense of comradery, the VPSA must work with each of the 12 departments to understand their individual cultures and needs, and to ensure that all departments are supported. S/he will unite the entire division around a sense of shared mission, providing clarity of purpose in advancing the strategic goals of the College. It is paramount that the VPSA be a visible, accessible, and supportive leader who builds relationships with staff at every layer of the organization. In an environment where some staff are recent alumni and a large proportion of others have been at the institution for decades, s/he must provide ongoing professional development opportunities and place a high value on internal growth. Perhaps most importantly, the VPSA will work as an advocate for staff and promote understanding of the work of student affairs across all campus divisions.
Engage personally with the student population.
The incoming VPSA must be a highly visible, involved, and transparent student-centered leader. A successful VPSA will encourage and engage students on a personal level to earn their trust and respect, and provide a model of engagement with students for other administrators and faculty. Most importantly, the VPSA will follow the New Paltz tradition to encourage students to “come as you are” and will embrace the activist and vocal student body. The VPSA will also bolster parent involvement, which is currently minimal, and provide compassionate and timely assistance to students and their families in crises.
Serve as an ambassador and advocate for students beyond the College.
The VPSA will play an important external role, continuing to foster close relationships with neighbors, community leaders, the local police, village and town municipal leaders, alumni, and parents. The College currently enjoys a strong relationship with the community, but in an environment where over half of students live off campus in the surrounding neighborhoods, it is important that the VPSA forge useful connections that bridge students to the outside world. This includes working with local organizations to create service-learning, internship, and other development opportunities.