The final two candidates for Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students came to a question-and-answer forum this past week to speak with the campus community.
Pacific Lutheran University has been on the hunt for a new vice president since the current VP, Laura Majovski, announced her retirement in the fall.
The committee to find a new vice president has narrowed its choices to three candidates: Leah Barrett spoke April 1, Joanna Royce-Davis spoke April 3 and Keith Champagne spoke this last Tuesday.
Joanna Royce-Davis graduated from Indiana University with a bachelor’s in special education and is the Dean of Students for University of the Pacific in California.
When asked what opportunities for innovation there were at PLU and how she qualifies for the job, Royce-Davis said, “Rather [than] what, go why. Why innovate?”
Royce-Davis went on to say that PLU is nimble at finding ways to communicate with students and internally with faculty. The next step, she said, is for all of us to share data about PLU with the student population.
“I’m good with large data sets,” Royce-Davis said. “They can be used to understand proxy and to understand and anticipate student problems.”
Royce-Davis also said that Student Life should begin to anticipate the needs of new and expanding student populations, and she sees herself as an initiator in this way.
After answering the initial question the committee had given Royce-Davis, organizers opened the floor for questions.
A professor of natural science asked how Royce-Davis would address the student body’s every-changing needs.
Royce-Davis described her ability to recognize and anticipate patterns in the student body, and she also stressed the importance of individual check-ins with community members.
Next, the Associate Director of International Students asked what Royce-Davis’ experience was with international students and what challenges and opportunities there were with these students
Royce-Davis said she shared concerns for international students’ experiences.
“We need to take international students into account for orientation and housing experiences,” Royce-Davis said. “We need to ensure there is immersion for international students.”
Royce-Davis also said that making international students feel comfortable is a priority, which can be done by implementing simple things on campus, like having recognizable foods in the dining hall.
A student then asked how Royce-Davis planned to implement student voices in administrative meetings and how the students would know they had been heard.
Royce-Davis described going to places where food was served or talking to students walking down the sidewalk, saying students are more likely to express their feelings and thoughts in a casual place.
“I want to create a space of familiarity and less formal,” Royce-Davis said.
One of the counselors from the Counseling Center asked how Royce-Davis communicates, and then a professor followed that question by asking how Royce-Davis would describe her leadership style.
“I want to go on retreats that are dedicated to creating dialogue,” Royce-Davis said. “I’m also not going to ask people to come to my office. I would rather go to theirs.”
Royce-Davis went on to describe her leadership style.
“I lead by example,” she said. “I am conscious of the position and title I would hold, but I wouldn’t micromanage and would have a very open-door policy.” She also said that she is open to criticism and would use it as constructive learning.
Two students asked Royce-Davis the final questions: how she would help students with career services and how she would come into contact with students.
“I want to help students achieve what they want to achieve,” Royce-Davis said. “I will go to places where the students are to learn more about them.”
Keith Champagne is the Associate Dean of Student Development at Central Washington University and has a bachelor’s in public relations from Loyola University in New Orleans.
As with the the other candidates, the commitee to find a new VP asked Champagne what opportunities there were for innovation at PLU and how he qualified for the job.
“There are three opportunities for innovation,” Champagne said. “A leadership review process, boundary-less meeting and research and analysis.”
He also said the leadership process would include a weekly state of the union meeting while boundary-less meetings would break down barriers between departments to meet and come up with creative ideas.
“It will help talented people to come together and solve problems,” Champagne said.
After Champagne’s description, the audience asked questions. A communication professor, Art Land, asked how Champagne would encourage student participation in student media.
“We have to tell students that this is their media,” Champagne said. “They should use it.”
An administrative staff member then asked why Champagne wanted to move from a large school like CWU to PLU. Champagne described how his doctorate in diversity in leadership in collegiate athletics could benefit PLU. He wants to see sports integrated into academics, a major aspect of PLU.
He went on to say he liked that PLU was a religious school, and he wanted to see people’s religious calling.
A psychology counselor asked what Champagne’s leadership style was. He said he didn’t believe in micromanagement and that working together to review everything was the way to go.
“I allow people to do what they need to do,” Champagne said. “We have to work collaboratively.”
A student followed up by asking how Champagne would gauge student voice around campus.
“I’m very receptive to student voice and student needs,” Champagne said. “Students want to know I’m real. I want students to know I’m open and available for any avenue.”
An Office of Admission staff member asked how Champagne would reach students who are not in leadership positions.
Champagne described a similar experience at CWU, where students hadn’t taken on traditional leadership roles. He said these students were interested in hip-hop, which was not offered on campus. As a result, Champagne suggested they organize a hip-hop summit at CWU.
“We need to find something they’re committed to and then link them to student leadership,” Champagne said.
He ended the forum by thanking everyone for coming and allowing him to be part of the process.
According to Sheri Tonn, a co-committee chair, the committee will make a decision for VP in the next few week, and President Krise will announce the selection. ◼︎