Responsiveness drives new student affairs leadership structure

Improved responsiveness and efficiency is the intent behind a new leadership structure in the student affairs division. Martino Harmon, who became the senior vice president for student affairs in late March and pledged to explore other leadership models, shared the changes with university officials last week, following final approval from President Steven Leath. Most take effect early in spring semester.

The new structure features two associate vice presidents and two assistant vice presidents who, with Harmon, make up a five-member leadership team. One of the four positions is new; the others involve promotion, consolidation of duties, or both. It replaces a two-person format: the senior VP and one associate VP.

The leadership function of Harmon's student affairs cabinet remains unchanged.

"The team structure will enhance our ability to be responsive to both our departments and our students," Harmon said. "With the incredibly diverse portfolio of units in student affairs, placing like units in clusters will improve our coordination and communication and, ultimately, allow us to resolve issues more quickly."

The four other team members will be:

  • Associate VP for enrollment management and student success. This post narrows the focus of the former associate VP role. "We need someone who eats and breathes enrollment and student success," Harmon said. It's been vacant since Harmon's move to the senior VP role and he hopes to fill the post by late November.
    Reporting units: admissions, registrar, student financial aid, enrollment research, learning communities, federal TRIO programs and technology services.
  • Associate VP/dean of students. "We have one of the largest dean of students units in the country, so elevating the post is a natural and should help us in our search process," Harmon said. Associate dean of students Keith Robinder has served as interim dean since January; Harmon plans to hire the associate VP/dean of students before spring semester begins.
    Reporting units: 14 dean of students units, with the addition of the office of international students and scholars.
  • Assistant vice president for auxiliary services/director. Residence director Pete Englin will move into this expanded role by the beginning of spring semester.
    Reporting units: dining, residence and perhaps the Memorial Union in the future (will report to Harmon until a multiyear renovation study is resolved). Harmon emphasized that dining and residence will remain separate units.
  • Assistant vice president for health services. A search for this new position will open during spring semester with the goal of having someone on board in May. Until then, units will report to Harmon. "The health and wellness of our students is one of my top priorities; it can be a matter of life and death," Harmon said.
    Reporting units: student health center, student counseling service, student wellness program (new this summer), recreation services (currently within the dean of students office, but will transfer next May).

Harmon noted that part of Englin's new duties will be to lead the strategic planning effort, including facilities planning, for the student affairs division. It will involve convening different internal committees to address short- and long-term needs within the division.

"That work will be forward-thinking, with recommendations for what we need five and 10 years out," he said. "They'll share information so people are more informed about what we have and what we need."

Hiring season

Harmon said he held listening sessions with student affairs units last spring and researched the management formats in student affairs divisions at about 20 large universities across the country before developing his own proposal. About 75 percent of those schools use a structure in which directors of aligned units answer to assistant or associate VPs, he said.

With several months' worth of retirements and resignations, student affairs has a half-dozen hires to complete in the new structure. Harmon said the goal is to hire permanent directors for the student counseling service and office of international students and scholars this fall and for the Memorial Union during spring semester. Other searches this fall are the two associate VP posts. Harmon hopes to fill the assistant VP for health services post by the end of spring semester.

"I'm excited for our division," he said. "We have great people. With the incredible growth in our student body, this new approach will make us better at serving our students and preparing for the future."

Other key staff

As part of his reorganization, Harmon also created fulltime, cabinet-level posts for student affairs division duties previously done on a part-time basis. Both staff members report to him:

  • Development officer dedicated to the student affairs division. Elizabeth (Liz) McAllister started in this position on Aug. 8.
  • Director of assessment and research. Matt Pistilli started in this position on Aug. 9.

Harmon said the reorganization didn't include any staff layoffs.