First VP candidate comes to PLU

Students, faculty and staff came to the question and answer forum for Leah Barrett, a candidate for vice president for Student Life and Dean of Students. Earlier this year, Laura Majovski announced her plans to retire from the position.

The daughter of a Lutheran minister, Barrett was a graduate of the University of Wyoming and is the assistant vice president for student affairs at the University of Brockport in New York.

Before organizers opened the floor for questions, the hiring committee asked Barrett what opportunities there are for innovation and advancement in Residential Life and how she qualifies for the job.

After first thanking everyone for coming to the forum, Barrett said Pacific Lutheran University needed to work on retaining students.

“We need to keep students not only involved [at PLU] from their first year to second year, but also from their second year to their third,” Barrett said. “We need to avoid the sophomore slump.”

Barrett went on to describe her qualifications for the position of VP, saying she has been told she is both good at communicating orally and in writing. She also said she can identify a person’s strengths and is able to motivate others into action.

After describing her love for the campus and for the size of PLU, organizers opened the floor for questions.

One faculty member asked which of the following Barrett wanted to prioritize for student life: vocation, women’s empowerment, career development or student development.

“All at once,” Barrett said. “We can’t silo information. Students will move from the classrooms into the real world, and they need to know their vocation, feel empowered and feel they have developed their careers.”

A student at the forum asked how Barrett would engage with the students and how she would advocate for them with the administration.

Barrett said she would invite any student or students over to her house for lunch to talk.
“I’ll engage with some student leaders automatically,” Barrett said, “but I need to know how the rest of the student body is doing.”
Barrett also said advocacy is important, but that also depends on what is being advocated, saying student wants and needs don’t always match.

This statement was not necessarily well received by some of the students in attendance.
“I was encouraged by some of her answers, but I’d like to pick her brain about student engagement on campus,” junior Dan Stell said.

One staff member asked how Barrett supervised and what could be expected from her as a leader. Barrett stated she is not a micromanager, saying she works on performance planning and how to help people get to the next step at work.

She concluded by saying she works with people differently based on their needs.
“The forum gave me a good feel for her style, her vision, what she’d like to do and where she’s been,” junior Amy Jones said. “I think she’d be a dynamic vice president.”

There are two other candidates for VP, Joanna Royce-Davis, who visited yesterday, and Keith Champagne, who will visit this Tuesday.

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