President William Craft has announced that effective on July 1, 2017, Concordia’s division of Student Affairs will be restructured into a broader and united organization named Student Development and Campus Life. All of the changes brought about are in congruence with Concordia’s strategic plan.
In the past, student support has been separated across Student and Academic Affairs. Now, assembled altogether, a new division has been reorganized, renamed and united under one vice president.
Renaming the division is important to Nathalie Rinehardt, director of student engagement.
“As staff, it does make us think a little bit more about what is the vision of our division, what are our goals moving forward, what are our key priorities?” Rinehardt said.
Dr. Lisa Sethre-Hofstad, associate dean of the college and psychology professor, will become Concordia’s Vice President for Student Development and Campus Life. Sethre-Hofstad has worked for the college for 21 years.
“She brings to this new role honors and achievements, but equally important, a devotion to equity, to diversity in opportunity and practice, and to the rich worth and promise of every Concordia student,” said President Craft in an email to all faculty and staff.
To prepare for her new position as Vice President for Student Development and Campus Life, Sethre-Hofstad has a lot on her to-do list between now and July.
“I think the next few months I will be doing a lot of listening. I have some ideas that I generated, I’m keeping a journal and doing a lot of reading but I also want to do a lot of listening to the people who have been in the current division of Student Affairs,” Sethre-Hofstad said. “What do they see as working really well, where do they see opportunties for advancing the student experience at Concordia? I want to listen carefully to what people have to say about that so I can think about my vision and where I’d like us to go as an institution and how that fits together with people who have been doing that work and are closest to the student experience as of right now.”
According to President Craft, many thanks are due in making this change possible to the exceptional work done by retired Vice President for Student Affairs Sue Oatey and her staff, as well as the current work of Academic Affairs who guide both student academic support and student career development.
On January 24, all of the staff who are a part of the revised division met with President Craft and Sethre-Hofstad for the first time. During this meeting, President Craft had the opportunity to share his imagination behind the new division and what his goals were and Dr. Sethre-Hofstad had a chance to say a few words about her role. Afterwards, everyone enjoyed open conversation around where staff saw the opportunities to strengthen and grow together.
“I think that there was good energy in the room. … I think people felt good about connecting with each other around the tables and they were asking for more conversation in the next few months so I’m excited about that,” Sethre-Hofstad said.
The new division of Student Development and Campus Life will encompass student support, student development, and campus life. Currently, the offices are arranged in the following teams.
Academic Enhancement and Writing Center, CARE Team, Counseling Center, Disability Services, Health Center, Student Success Advisory Council, Student Success and Retention.
Career Center, First-Year Transition, Orientation, Student Engagement, including Student Organizations.
Public Safety, together with the Information Desk and Post Office, Residence Life.
Within the reorganization of Student Affairs, leaders in the various offices foresee opportunities to rethink how work within all offices can be integrated together for a more seamless experience for students.
Restructures within Student Affairs divisions are common at colleges and universities across the country.
“Other institutions are imagining new ways of thinking about student support and student development and I think Concordia is at the front edge of that curve and so I’m excited to see where we’ll go and what kinds of opportunities we will develop and maybe be able to share to the broader higher education community,” Sethre-Hofstad said.
Importantly, this interdependence is not a completely new concept by any means. Instead, Concordia is looking to build on a solid foundation of collaboration.
“Student Affairs for a long time has been very well connected,” Sethre-Hofstad said. “I think we’ve especially done a lot in the academic program with student learning outcomes, we’ve been really careful to include the goals for liberal learning in the Residence Life curriculum and other curriculum in the Division.
Rinehardt believes the landscape of the Student Affairs is changing and is excited that Concordia is very proactive in responding to new needs of students.
“Students today are very different than students 10 years ago and 15 years ago. Being cognizant about that I think is part of our job as Student Affairs professionals,” Rinehardt said. “And so, thinking more about how do we structure ourselves, how do we communicate in order to respond to those needs is always important.”
Rinehardt is excited about the interconnectedness that the new structure brings to students. Having the various offices that serve students in the same division creates more knowledge and fosters an environment that can best serve the students.
Lois Cogdill, interim dean of student affairs, hopes that students will be able to benefit from the more seamless experience within the programs and offices in the work that they do.
Cogdill believes there are meaningful reasons for the restructuring of Student Affairs division. Primarily, to better serve students and to align with the strategic goals for the college.
“I think coming together in a more unified way helps in both of those areas,” Cogdill said. “I think it will be good for students in that we can provide programs and services to students and I also think it will help us support the strategic goals of the college such as integrative learning and the career initiative.”
Cogdill acknowledges that the announcement of the Student Affairs restructure is the beginning of exciting and hard work in the months ahead.
“There are lots of details yet to be determined. … I think we’ve got the broad framework, we have the broad vision and there’s a lot yet within that to be determined,” Cogdill said.