University of Pennsylvania

The search committee for the new vice president for Student Affairs has chosen four finalists out of 77 applicants to visit campus in April.

The position became available when vice president for Student Affairs Juan Gonzalez announced in July that he would no longer serve in an administrative capacity in order to focus on teaching in the College of Education. Each candidate will interact with the University community and to be interviewed further by the search committee.

Architecture professor Larry Speck is chair of the search committee that includes students appointed by President William Powers Jr., faculty members and administrators. Speck said the search committee is looking for a candidate who is student-oriented and will be an innovative leader. “I think there is a sense that this is a good time for change,” Speck said. “I don’t think we want someone who will just maintain the status quo.”

Chris Miller, Vice President for Student Affairs, Marquette University

Miller said he is committed to minimizing barriers to student success, such as his work to increase access to mental health screenings to help before depression becomes debilitating.

“It’s about being able to focus on areas where we can predict those kinds of things,” Miller said. “Approaching it in an open and honest way.”

Marquette University is a Catholic, Jesuit college in Milwaukee, Wisc. with about 11,500 enrolled students.
Miller said it is important to engage faculty in order to engage students and said this can be done through efforts like learning communities, in which dorms are organized by major and have a live-in faculty member who acts as a liaison between the students and the school.

He said one of the main roles of student affairs is to bolster the university’s academic mission.

“We do that throughout of the classroom experiences, but they have to have definitive learning outcomes which can be measured,” Miller said.

Ajay Nair, Senior Associate Vice Provos For Student Affairs, University of Pennsylvania

Nair said he is a regular attendant at student programs because students are central to the decision-making process.

“In my experience, students have incredible power to affect change at an institution,” Nair said. “In many ways it’s my job to help shape that and move that along and advocate for students with the administration.”

The University of Pennsylvania is a private college that currently has about 24,000 enrolled students. Nair said the campus is similar to UT-Austin in terms of the active student life and the caliber of the students. Nair said he is interested in the University’s ambitious goals to improve retention and to become the best public research university in the country.

Budget cuts present a challenge to universities across the country, Nair said, but universities should always approach programs with finances in mind, regardless of good or bad economic times.

“It’s up to the leaders and managers to look at creative ways to manage money and streamline programs to enhance student life,” Nair said.

Gage Paine, Vice President for Student Affairs, University of Texas at San Antonio

The classroom should be relevant in every part of a students life, Paine said.

“For me, the educational experience ought to be one that engages students on multiple levels,” Paine said. “Intellectual, personal development — they’re halves of a whole.”

About 30,000 students are currently enrolled at UTSA. The campus opened in 1970, which Paine said means student affairs are still in building mode, whereas UT-Austin’s student affairs are well established. She said this provides an opportunity if she were to be hired.

“One of the things that can happen is people can say ‘We’ve always done it this way,’ and a new person can come in and question,” Paine said.

She said it is important that college is a good learning experience that is vibrant and exciting in all aspects, and student affairs is an integral part in initiating and maintaining that type of environment.

“I finally figured out that my job was to make the university work for the students and the people who work there,” Paine said.

Francisco Hernandez, Vice Chancellor for Students, University of Hawaii at Manoa

Hernandez currently oversees admissions, financial aid and student life for a campus of about 20,000 that is the top
research university.

Hernandez said if hired, he would contribute to University goals, specifically maintaining and enhancing the University’s national and international reputation. Hernandez said this could be done by partnering with other parts of campus, such as academics.

“We can lead by example in the sense that all of our programs are excellent,” Hernandez said.

He said a highlight from his career is when he helped create centers for women, minority students and disabled students at the University of California at Berkeley when he served there from 1980 to 1994.

“I’ve gained a lot of knowledge by facing many similar challenges that UT may face,” Hernandez said. “I’m especially interested in assisting the campus meet the needs of the diverse students body that it has.”