VP search ongoing

SYDNEY HAUER, Staff Writer

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The Vice President of Student Affairs Search Committee, consisting of 15 members representing an array of students and faculty, has narrowed down the search for the new vice president of student affairs to five candidates.

Two of the candidates have presented in open forums this week, with the rest upcoming.

Recordings of all five open forums will be available for viewing on the vice president of student affairs search website.

“We’re excited about the search, and we’re excited about the five people we’re bringing to campus,” said Brenda Bass, dean of students at the college of social and behavioral sciences and the chair of the vice president search committee. She mentioned that all of the candidates greatly differ from each other.

“They’re all very strong and they all have a nice breadth of experience,” Bass said.

The first forum was held on April 4 with Peter Gitau.

The highlights of his platform include: the importance of the promotion of student success; making students’ experiences at UNI distinctive; the importance of faculty-student mentoring; leading in diversity, inclusion and globalization; strengthening the student-centeredness and efficiency of all support services and investing in partnerships, relationships and collaboration.

Gitau received his PhD from the University of Kansas, having earned his MS from Eastern Illinois University and completed his undergraduate degree at Kenyatta University in Kenya.

Gitau is currently the CEO of OrgHealth International, a human resource company that specializes in diversity training for corporations. He has previously served as the VP of Student Affairs for Northern Kentucky University and is formerly the Dean of Student Life at the University of Dubuque.

Student Affairs exists not just as a reactionary means for student concerns, Gitau said, but should be proactive in addressing issues through assessment.

“To devise ways to proactively respond to student concerns and issues is probably one of our number one reasons why we are here,” Gitau said.

He also stressed a focus and investment in “vulnerable groups” of students on campus to increase overall retention rates.

The second candidate was Laura Bayless, who presented on Monday, April 11.
Bayless completed her undergraduate work at Denison University in Ohio, earned her MS in college student personnel services from Miami University in Ohio and obtained her PhD in higher education administration from Virginia Tech.

Bayless currently serves as the vice chancellor for student affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.

Bayless outlined a vision for “learning and effectiveness, collaboration, student focused circumstances, and communication and professional development.”  She said continued improvement comes from formal and informal assessment of efficacy.

“We need to be able to tell […] our story that really demonstrates the impact that happens in the classroom and outside the classroom,” Bayless said.

Bayless also seemed to allude to diversity issues that have been highlighted on campus.

“I think that multicultural competence has a huge element of humility in it,” Bayless said.

The three remaining candidates are Dione Somerville, Eileen Sullivan and Eric Arneson. The open forums candidates will be held on April 14, 15 and 18, respectively, from 3:30-4:30 p.m. in Sabin Hall.

In addition to these forums, each of the candidates will engage in separate, student-only forums. These forums are specifically designed for students to ask the candidates questions. The student-only forums take place on April 14 and 17 from 7:30-8:30 p.m. on the third floor of the Rod Library in the new, centrally located scholar space.

The candidate eventually selected will carry out several different roles. They will oversee student affairs on campus in Maucker Union, the Center for Multicultural Education, the Student Health Center, Wellness and Recreation Center and Residence Life, among other duties.

“The President took input from across campus in terms of his leadership team,” Bass said about the search process. “He chose members of the search committee that represent the various constituencies around campus, as well as a community member […] There are students on the search committee, as well: two undergraduates and a graduate student.”

The next step for the search committee will be to interact with the candidates and gather data from the feedback forms available on the vice president search website, which will then be sent to President Ruud. The feedback forms are available until April 19.

“Once all the candidates have been here, the search committee will meet to talk about the strengths of each candidate,” Bass said. “We will have done reference checks and will provide that information to the president, and then it will be the president and the Board of Regents that work to make final decisions as to who to offer the position to.”

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