Title: Vice President for Student and Campus Life
College / University / Organization: SUNY Geneseo
Position for which you are applying: Vice President
In the space below, please describe your involvement with ACPA, including any leadership positions you have held.
In the 36 years that I have been a student affairs educator and practitioner, ACPA has been my professional home, and it is an honor to have been encouraged to consider becoming its Vice President. Over the course of my career, I have served ACPA in numerous capacities, to advance both the organization and the professional development of our members. Beginning in 2000, I was tapped by Executive Director Gregory Roberts to promote the involvement of senior student affairs officers in ACPA by participating in and ultimately leading the Senior Student Affairs Officer Practitioner Program. I am a long-term member of the ACPA Senior Student Affairs Officer Advisory Board, and to this day, I continue to promote the involvement of senior student affairs officers in ACPA.
A second major focus of my involvement with ACPA has been through its publications. Since 2000 I have authored or co-authored nine articles for About Campus, and in 2007 I was named as a member of its Board of Contributors, a position I still hold. Moreover, in 2011 I began a three-year term as a member of the ACPA Books and Media Editorial Board.
A third area of involvement in ACPA has been my engagement with convention-related activity. This has included membership on the 2004 Convention Planning Team, when I was responsible for a slate of convention programs focusing on service learning and civic engagement; serving as a program proposal reviewer for the annual conventions; and serving as a reviewer for the major association awards presented at the 2014 convention.
Please describe how you will work to advance ACPA’s Core Values if elected/appointed to this position.
My work in higher education is values driven, and the core values of ACPA have been readily evident in it. I have been involved in ACPA throughout my career not only because it has helped foster the development of my managerial and administrative skills, and not merely because it has enabled me to stay abreast of the legal issues we encounter in our field; but principally because the core values of ACPA – such as the values of access, opportunity, inclusion, respect, and freedom to teach and learn – are fully in sync with my own personal values. In recent years, as an instructor in the student personnel administration graduate program at Canisius College, one of my primary goals has been to emphasize that education is inherently a value-laden activity, and that this is especially the case in student affairs work. I have also striven to stress the importance of working at colleges and universities where the institutional values are in sync with one’s individual values.
Through embracing these values, our students can thrive and prosper, and our institutions’ commitments to them can be reinforced. My dedication to the core values of our profession and of ACPA motivates me on a daily basis, and would be transparent in my work on behalf of the members of ACPA.
After reviewing the qualifications of the position for which you are applying, please describe briefly below how you believe you meet each qualification.
I have built a record of exemplary achievement as a leader in higher education over the course of more than thirty-six years, twenty-six of which I have been a senior student affairs officer.
For the past fifteen years I have served as Vice President for Student and Campus Life at SUNY Geneseo, bringing to life Geneseo’s mission to combine a rigorous curriculum with a rich co-curricular life; to collaborate across the entire college community; and to create a learning-centered environment that develops socially responsible citizens. Prior to this, I served for eleven years as Vice President for Student Development and Dean of Students at Cabrini College, and, before that, ten years in progressively responsible positions of administrative leadership at two other colleges.
I was recruited to Geneseo, in large part, to ensure that outstanding and innovative co-curricular programs and services complemented the quality of its curriculum. Toward this end, I instituted a collaborative and open planning process that has led to the development of numerous new program initiatives that have garnered twenty-eight national, regional, and state awards for what are considered to be best practices in such areas as career development, leadership development, residence life, and student civic engagement.
As a student affairs leader, I have led two statewide organizations, and have developed skills that I would call upon should I be selected to lead the ACPA. Twice I have been elected to serve as the President of the State University of New York Council of Chief Student Affairs Officers (SUNY CCSAO), and I am currently concluding the second of two, two-year terms. Our most significant accomplishment has been the publication of a series of white papers on current issues in student affairs work in higher education, several of which I authored or co-authored, and all of which I edited. The topics of the papers included enhancing excellence in student leadership development, student retention, student health and wellness, and student recreation.
I was also principal catalyst behind the founding of another statewide organization, the New York Campus Compact (NYCC). Originating from a desire to garner external support for the development of what would become Geneseo’s award-winning civic engagement programs, I established relationships with college and university faculty and staff from across New York State to procure the commitments of more than fifty public and private college and university presidents to join the NYCC. As the first chairperson of the New York Campus Compact Advisory Committee, I helped lead the growth of the organization into the largest of the 34 state compacts in the nation. I offer my leadership in the founding of New York’s Campus Compact as an example of how my own work in higher education has left a regional and national imprint, and has simultaneously been a reflection of my own personal values.
ACPA has recognized my professional accomplishments with the Senior Student Affairs Practitioner Award in 2002 and the Senior Student Affairs Officer Diplomate Award in 2005. In 2013, I was named as the recipient of the ACPA Excellence in Practice Award, an honor bestowed each year on one senior student affairs administrator who has established programs based on the best national practices in student affairs that have resulted in sustained institutional improvement.
As a leader, how will you contribute to the work of the Association?
It is not often in the history of an organization when its values and commitments are thrust into the public eye by current events, and tested by the forces of social change. We are currently living in such a time, and for this reason I believe that the next decade of student affairs work will be the most complex we have ever faced. The changing landscape of higher education, the changing demographics of our students, governmental and societal expectations and economic challenges will all call us to think critically about our work and how ACPA can best support it.
I believe that ACPA’s strengths – its commitments to learning and development, scholarship, and social justice – are the pillars on which it can and will grow in visibility, influence, and stature among higher education professional associations. While there is much criticism directed today at the management and functioning of colleges and universities, the organizational strengths of ACPA provide the foundation on which to build greater public understanding of the purpose, nature, and effectiveness of student affairs work in higher education. As our institutions are called to better meet the diverse needs and expectations of all of our students, we can point to and build upon the membership and governance structures of ACPA as models of inclusiveness. As our institutions are expected to demonstrate greater accountability, we can point to the scholarship of the field as evidence of impact and value. As our nation continues to grapple with issues of marginalization and economic and class stratification, we can confidently build upon ACPA’s long-term commitment to social justice.
My contributions to the work of the Association will be mission and values driven, aiming to more intensely and precisely stake our claim as a unique higher education professional organization that effectively forges links between scholarship and practice, and transparently infuses its values into its decisions. Our success in fulfilling our commitments will create new opportunities for partnerships across the spectrum of higher learning professional associations and with organizations that may not be based in higher education, but share our commitment to student development and social justice, that will illumine and fortify the strengths of the association.
After reading the introductory statement about the ACPA Leader Selection Process, take a moment to reflect on your own experiences at the intersections of equity, inclusion and diversity. How will your experiences help you in our work to champion equity, inclusion and diversity within and outside the ACPA community?
I strongly believe that equity, inclusion and diversity are characteristics of organizational excellence. Throughout my career I have been a tireless promoter of inclusiveness and diversity, and view them as characteristics of educational excellence and community vitality. This belief has been manifested in the development of numerous programs and policies to support these ideals. As a leading member of the President’s Commission on Community and Diversity at SUNY Geneseo, I was the principal author of the College’s Commitment to Diversity and Community statement. To bring this statement to life, I established the Vice President’s Grants for Community and Diversity that have provided funding for numerous initiatives that have created a more welcoming and supportive environment for under-represented students at Geneseo, and generated campus-wide dialogue on issues of racial, ethnic, gender, class and intellectual diversity in the context of community. I also secured for Geneseo membership in CHAS – the Consortium on High Achievement and Success – an organization of 26 selective liberal arts colleges and small universities dedicated to promoting student achievement, leadership, and personal satisfaction. These initiatives have no doubt contributed in part to the fact that, during my time at Geneseo, the percentage of students of color in the overall student body has grown from 9% to over 17%, and the percentage of students of color in the most recently enrolled class exceeded 20%. I offer these initiatives and results as examples of how, in my work, I have helped to champion equity, inclusion, and diversity, and how these aims would continue to inform my work should I be elected to help lead ACPA.
My leadership style is also inclusive in nature. I find that the pluralism of the student body and student affairs staff at Geneseo enriches our decisions and actions, and see ACPA’s pluralism as a significant organizational strength as well.
Theodore Roosevelt wrote, “Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” Student affairs work, and the advancement of it by ACPA, is “work worth doing.” I look forward, if elected, to the prospect of vigorously supporting the work of our new Executive Director, and passionately and tirelessly serving of all of the educators who comprise ACPA.