Students weigh in on Student Affairs overhaul

The Division of Student Affairs kicked off its “visioning process” on Tuesday with a series of student focus groups to see what the campus thought about Student Affairs and to look for any potential gaps.

“First of all, it was, when you say the words Division of Student Affairs … a lot of students don’t really know what that is,” said John Stein, Dean of Students and Interim Vice President of Student Affairs.

In all, 34 students and nine faculty participated in the focus groups, answering questions such as ‘what is student affairs to you?’ and ‘what gaps do you see in services to students?’

“I think that really is what we’re really trying to access with students — what student believe,” Stein said. “One always wants to believe that we’re doing the very best to meet students’ needs, but you always want to test that sometimes to see what students give back to you, and that’s what we’re trying to do now is test that question to see what else students need from us.”

The goal of the visioning process is to examine how the division is performing and make changes to improve. After former Vice President William Schafer left Tech for a position at the University of West Virginia, Student affairs thought it would be good to re-evaluate before a new Vice President was named.

“[This would say to the new Vice President that] time was just spent really looking at this in light of a pivotal moment where a VP who has been in the position 11 years steps away,” Stein said. “It’s a great time to just re-evaluate, reassess and figure some things out before someone new comes on board.”

According to Stein, Student Affairs would like to have a report before a new Vice President is hired.

“The President, Dr. Peterson, has agreed that we want to go through this visioning process,” Stein said. “Our hope is that this would wrap up at some point in June and then a set of recommendations would come out of this that he would consider and then make the decision from there as to the next steps.”

Stein sees the focus groups as a way of helping resolve students’ questions about Student Affairs and to try to find areas of improvement.

“And so I think that what we’re trying to see is what do students know about the Division of Student Affairs,” Stein said. “What do they see as our mission and our daily work in relation to them? Where are the gaps? And then, what can we do to improve this division in relation to students and the Institute?”

One subject which came up a lot in the focus groups, and throughout the year was mental health and the resources available for it. In August, the Counseling Center filled four vacant positions and hired two additional counselors. Since then it has hired an additional counselor and plans to hire two more for next semester.