Search for VP for Student Affairs begins

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After numerous discussions and requests by students to have a voice at the Presidential Cabinet level, an ad will be placed advertising the new position Vice President for Student Affairs.

President Robert Vartabedian said when he first started interviewing at Western, many students asked him if he would be interested in having a voice close to the students in his cabinet.

“I heard them out and of course I looked at other universities like our own,” Vartabedian said. “I found that we were unusual.”
Currently Western has one administrator who oversees most of the campus, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs and Student Affairs Joseph Bragin.

Vartabedian said that at other universities similar to Western and at the universities he has been at in the past, there are separate administrators for academic affairs and student affairs. This is the model Vartabedian is hoping to transition to with the hiring of the new vice president.

“In July I talked to groups of students then faculty senate, staff senate and student senate,” Vartabedian said. “After I found a significant amount of support for this, I went to the Board of Governors and we moved forward from there.”

Student Government Association President and former Student Governor Harold Callaway served on the presidential search committee that interviewed Vartabedian. Callaway said that the student focus groups that met with the presidential candidates expressed an interest in separating academic from student affairs. Now that the discussed separation has been formally announced, Callaway believes the things that take place in the classroom and the things that take place outside the classroom will be clearly defined.

“I think it is going to be an easy transition,” Callaway said. “Instead of going in a curve to get to a certain point we’re going in a straight line.”

Bragin said splitting the vice president positions will allow him to concentrate more on the academic aspects.

“My major concern was advisement, especially for first-year students,” Bragin said. He wanted to make sure that academic advisement was still handled by the most experienced professionals.

According to Bragin, Western increased retention rates from 55 percent to 67 percent.

“We don’t want to slip backwards and instead continue forward,” Bragin said. “If we don’t provide support, they’ll have a hard time getting through their freshmen years.”

According to the 2008-2009 University Organizational Chart found in Western’s Policy Guide, Bragin currently oversees all activity within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the College of Professional Studies, the Steven L. Craig School of Business, the Western Institute, Student Affairs and Graduate Studies. The New Vice President of Student Affairs will relieve Bragin of the responsibilities over the offices of Student Development and Residential Life. Last spring, Student Development and Student Services combined together under Judy Grimes as the dean of student affairs.

“The original intent of combining Academic and Student Affairs, was to enhance the communication lines among the various entities,” Grimes said. “This has included the dean of student affairs serving on the Dean’s Council under [Bragin] along with the academic deans, the registrar, the admissions director, etc. These meetings have proven to be great opportunities to share ideas and develop effective collaborations.”

Grimes said that now that the strong bonds and communication lines have been developed, her hope is that under a Vice President for Student Affairs, the same collaboration will continue, particularly during events such as Registration Days, Griffon Edge and multicultural programming.

Registration and Griffon Edge will remain under academic affairs as part of the Admissions Office’s operations.

The position is currently open to a national search. While some believe Grimes as current dean of student affairs would be a likely candidate, she said she’d rather stay with the advisement side of student affairs.

“I will have the opportunity to supervise these areas and continue to report to the Provost under this structure,” Grimes said.

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