VP open forums continue



Dione D. Sommerville, current vice president of student affairs at Bloomberg University of Pennsylvania, spoke at an open forum April 14 in Sabin Hall

SYDNEY KUNZ, Staff Writer

The search for a new vice president of student affairs has been narrowed down to five candidates by the vice president of student affairs search committee.

The selected candidate will hold several roles overseeing student affairs on campus, including: the Wellness and Recreation Center, Residence Life, the Center for Multicultural Education and other duties related to promoting improved student life.

Throughout this past month, the five remaining candidates engaged in open forums with both faculty and students. All five candidates’ open forums are currently available for viewing on the official search webpage.

Peter Gitau and Laura Bayless were the first two candidates to present their open forums, which took place on April 4 and April 11, respectively. A story that appeared in the April 14 issue of The Northern Iowan includes summaries of these first two forums.

Dione D. Somerville gave her open forum in Sabin Hall on April 14.

Somerville is currently serving as vice president of student affairs at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, a position she has held since July 2011.

Prior to her time at Bloomsburg, Somerville served as dean of students at Iowa State University for more than four years.

Somerville earned a B.A. in English and writing from Ohio Northern University, an M.A. in college student personnel from Bowling Green State University and Ph.D. in higher education management from the University of Pennsylvania in 2006.

Some of the main points that Somerville brought forth in her forum included: increased retention and graduation rates, an inclusive educational environment and the use of a strategic planning process as a way to re-commit and re-affirm student life priorities and vision.

Somerville also spoke about sexual misconduct and discrimination.

“Sexual misconduct and Title IX continues to be, nationally, something that we all pay attention to […] We always need to assure that we are appropriately providing services to survivors and helping educate the community,” she said.

The fourth candidate to speak was Eileen G. Sullivan, who currently serves as the dean of students at Elmhurst College and was previously the interim assistant vice president for student life at Northern Illinois University.

Sullivan received an M.S. from Eastern Illinois University and a Ph.D. in higher education administration from Bowling Green State University in 1998.

Sullivan gave her forum on April 15. The three priorities that she said she would like to focus on if chosen were: meeting the needs of all students, collaboration across the university and helping others understand key student issues.

When speaking on student issues, Sullivan specifically addressed mental health.

“The hiring of staff at a counseling center on a college campus probably is the only thing that keeps pace the hiring of development officers or admissions officers in different times,” Sullivan said. “We have done a lot of monitoring of our students’ health needs to make sure that we have the proper infrastructure to support them.”

The fifth candidate was Eric E. Arneson, who is the current assistant vice president for student affairs at Florida International University.

Arneson received his M.A. in college student personnel at Bowling Green State University and later his Ph.D. in higher education at Florida International University in 2011.

Arneson’s forum took place on April 18. Some of the topics that were addressed included: how to add to student success by increasing student involvement and adding student leadership curriculum.

Arneson also spoke about increasing diversity by creating a diversity advisory council, as well as staff recruitment and collaboration with academic, athletic and business partnerships.

“Being able to bring over 350 people which are student affairs professionals from around the state […] on our campus – that highlights our campus and allows people from University of Iowa, maybe Minnesota or Wisconsin, see the great things that are going on here, because we actually bring them to campus,” Arneson said on the topic of increasing UNI’s visibility.

Brenda Bass, dean of the college of social and behavioral sciences and search committee chair, spoke about the search process for a new vice president of student affairs (VPSA).

“The VPSA search committee is very pleased with the caliber of candidates that accepted our invitation to visit UNI and share their experiences, expertise and vision for our student affairs division,” Bass said.

Bass also expressed gratitude to the students who provided comments on the candidates.

“Even though the finalists have unique backgrounds, they all focused on the key concept that is paramount for our needs, which is: student success for all of our UNI students,” said Bass. “The feedback has been excellent from students, faculty and staff. This truly has been an engaged campus search, and I personally thank everyone who took the time to submit their thoughts and opinions to the committee.”