Panel of LVAIC Presidents Engages Student Affairs Professionals Across the LVAIC Community
November 16, 2018, @ 8:00 AM
As part of its on-going professional development initiatives, LVAIC hosts a student-affairs-focused seminar series each year. This is the second year of this event series, and the second session took place on Wednesday, November 7, 2018 at Lafayette College. This session hosted 3 LVAIC presidents and 65 student affairs professionals.
The panelists included Alison Byerly, President of Lafayette College; John Williams, President of Muhlenberg College; Bryon Grgisby, President of Moravian College; and moderator Annette Diorio, Vice President of Campus Life and Dean of Students of Lafayette College. These campus leaders explored various areas of student life and connected their perspective to understanding student affairs.
The group responded to the topic of what they require from student affairs in order to be successful campus leaders first. The presidents offered that they need to be kept informed of campuses happenings and they need student affairs professionals whose values align with their own, including risk tolerance and alignment with the campus mission.
Discussing the skills sets required of student affairs professionals in order to be successful in this role, presidents tasked their colleagues with having high energy, clear judgment, understanding of all aspects of the college’s students, strong listening skills to hear the needs of students and staff, and strong communication skills to share those needs with the campus leadership. This involves the ability to translate across constituents and audiences while maintaining a strong understanding of all aspects of the campus. Further, as student affairs professionals inform presidents of campus events, the presidents must inform the general public. Keeping the president informed and educated lays a successful foundation for all aspects of the college.
The presidents discussed balancing these audiences: students, staff, faculty, the general public, the board of trustees, etc. While President Grigsby offered that graduating from the institution you serve acts as a major benefit, all the panelists agreed that the first steps encompasses educating the audiences on the needs of the college, which needs to happen differently for each group. In terms of managing external relationships, the presidents agreed to the importance of spending time on the campus while simultaneously engaging the general public. President Byerly offered that the key to this balance is held in learning how to communicate effectively and convey the proper messaging to each cohort with whom presidents are expected to communicate. Learning the needs of each cohort allows a much smoother communication process, as President Byerly explained in Lafayette College’s most recent construction endeavors.
While the sentiment about higher education has been challenged by the general public, the president explained that it is the responsiblity of all members of the campus to overcome this challenge. For example, sending students into the community to perform service while wearing their college’s apparel creates a great opportunity to showcase the real sense of who the college is. The presidents offered that engaging in the local community to change perceptions must occur before the entire higher education industry can overcome the negative perception created around higher education.
In sharing their paths to the presidency, each president offered that their journey did not travel through students affairs, creating a gap in experience in that area that strong student affairs professionals on their campuses assist them to overcome. In this sense, President Grigsby explained that, “Culture eats strategy for lunch,” and presidents must integrate with the culture, including the student affairs culture, in order to move a campus forward. This means allowing the campus to serve its students and the students that its mission sets out to serve. President Williams clarified that this integration means making changes that prove consistent with the fundamental mission of the college or university in order to adapt to the changing landscape of the industry. The presidents agreed that finding this balance creates a challenge, but that students affairs professionals offer advisory perspective that aids presidents in making more informed decisions about these changes.
The next events in this series will take place in the Spring 2019 semester. More information about the student affairs professional development series is available on the staff professional development page of the LVAIC website.State of the Lehigh Valley Event Showcases Trends in the Region » « Wire Transfer Fraud Panel Offers Guidance, Advice to LVAIC Community