Transforming Student Affairs
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, --who was Charles Dickens taking about?
The Division of Student Affairs has been engaged in reinventing itself. Our work began in 2011 when we began taking about separation from TSC and the implications that would have on our work. The in-depth analysis began with a thorough review of Athletics and how rightsizing would impact that budget. Since critical decisions regarding recruiting and scheduling of the sports had to be made on a timely basis, an Athletic Task force was convened in October 2011.
Our work then continued with the Concentric Circle exercise that each of you were asked to be a part of. The task was clear. We were to review those core elements we needed to retain and then understand how the new budget projections would impact those priorities. In September 2012 we were all involved in the 21st Century Futures Commission. We were to imagine what UTB 2.0 would look like in a 21st century university.
Budgets and Space
We have had so many different scenarios and all of you have been very patient with our discussions on budget and space. Our budgets have been impacted by Separation, loss of REK and Union fees, and shifting of Student Services fees to Academic Affairs.
In my 32+ years of service I must admit that this year has been the most difficult. We proposed several budget scenarios, all designed to keep as many of our staff on board as possible, given our new priorities. Decisions about the Student Union, REK, Athletics, Medical Services, Housing, ITEC, Garza Gym and just space in general.. All ever changing.
Losing the two Assistant VPSA has had an impact on our work which we needed to address. Please know that I understand how difficult it has been to loose many of our key personnel. At times we lost entire departments… Student Union, Student Success and REK. We were able to retain key personnel from those departments who will now focus on rebuilding our support to our students. The valuable support all those offices were providing is critical to the students’ experience and we aim to find a way to continue those services.
The negotiations on space and building have been difficult to observe and now even more difficult to adjust as decisions have been made.. Nobody is happy about our space but we all have to make it work. (Student Union, REK, Cortez, Gym). I have heard comments that our Division is now separated from the UTB because of location but this is not the case. It is not the space that defines us. We will find a way of making sure students and the campus know where we are and what we do.
Where are we now?
We have to refocus our energies and resources while keeping in mind our fundamental role on this campus – our students and our role as educators in this environment.
In our discussions as the SA leadership, it clears that there exists, across the division, a remarkable consensus that we must maintain a “students-first” philosophy. We all affirmed that students are our passion and purpose and that equally as important of being student-centered was that we remain learning-focused. These two imperative must inform everything we do as a united team.
We have been challenged to repurpose ourselves given these two imperatives and to forge a path which cultivates strong partnerships with the other Divisions.
We must foster a campus culture that values student affairs professionals as essential partners in the learning process. Our colleagues need to know that our work is based on traditional and innovative models of student development practice. We need to develop a model that establishes seamless learning and collaboration with Academic affairs and Enrollment Management as hallmarks of our practice. We have a unique opportunity with Dr. Leal as the VPEM. We will continue to extend our support as she is providing leadership to this important team. It is critical for us all that EM is successful and we need to have a role in that success.
UTB 2.0 calls for us to identify areas of focus facilitate collaboration and reduce redundancies. The new units and programs are both theoretically sound and administratively practical. Our structure clearly defines roles, responsibilities and accountability for the divisions’ core functions and for the attainment of its goals.
- Doug Stoves is now the Assistant Dean of Residential life and Auxiliary Services
- Dr. Beatriz Becerra Barckholtz is now the Assistant Dean of Students, ad interim
- Assistant Dean of Counseling and Medical Services –(Vacant)
- Sergio Martinez is now the Executive Director for Student Engagement
- Heather Olague is now the Director of Student Leadership programs
- David Marquez is now the Director of Students Rights and Responsibilities
- Juan Andres Rodriguez is the Coordinator for Career Services
Without the Assistant VPSA we have had to shift some of the responsibilities that were under Sylvia and Mari to Betty, Doug, and my office.
These offices are being restructured to focus on policy, planning, budgeting, resource management, assessment, risk management at many levels, research, crisis response, and general administration of the SA enterprise.
Our accomplishments have shown that our work as SA educators has never more prolific than when we are challenged to create. I am so proud of all you have accomplished and when we pull together, I know our future is bright.
The support we have received from our Chancellor and the BOR has been extraordinary. They have just approved our new Guiding Principles and I ask that you all review them, own them and let’s come up with strategies that support these Principles in all our work.
I encourage the development of creative ideas and proposals in 2013-2014. If we are to not only survive but thrive we are going to have to work in groups and take on initiatives that are tied to our Guiding Principles.
I am confident that through the expanded use of cross-functional teams and advisory groups we will have an influence on the design of our new university.
Thank you for being a part of the evolution and as most of you so appropriately remind me… we need to Go BIG or Go Home and we are not ready to go home!
We aim to do our part to build our new University and to forge strong partnerships with our colleagues. It falls to us to help guide our students and to teach them how to be strong advocates in designing their new university.
I look forward to your continued support.