Student Affairs Adopts New Structure and Emphasizes DEI Work | News

Gonzaga University’s Division of Student Affairs is turning a new page to start 2022, adopting a unique organizational structure to improve its responsiveness to student needs and facilitate closer collaboration between the division’s various teams.

The main goal of the Student Affairs Division is to reflect the student experience outside of the classroom. For the past few decades, the division has operated on a two-dean model.

Under the division’s previous model, having two deans allowed one to focus on health and wellness and the other on student development, in addition to a team of assistant deans, directors and the vice-rector.

Yet last December, Kent Porterfield, vice-president for student affairs, announced that the division would add a new dean focused on social justice and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), to accompany the roles of two other deans.

“If our work is about students and our impact is measured by what students do, learn to do or are able to do, then it seems to me that we need to make sure that we align our resources in a way that better supports students. . to do that,” Porterfield said. “Institutions change because of the socio-political, environmental and economic conditions in which we operate, and yet the patterns of practice reflect the same kind of approach we’ve used for decades.”

In the announcement, Porterfield described how the division defined three pillars – advancing DEI, promoting wellbeing, and fostering an integrated approach to student learning and development – ​​in defining its role for the university.

These pillars, according to Porterfield, are the backbone of this new structure. The variety of teams and offices that work within the division have been categorized into one of these three pillars, each under the direction of a corresponding Dean.

Teams and offices will report to their respective Dean in their branch within the Student Affairs Division, who will then report to Porterfield.

Matt Lamsma will continue as Dean of Student Development and lead the pillar of promoting an integrated approach to student learning and development, and Paula Smith will remain as Acting Dean of Student Wellbeing and Development. flourishing as the division searches for its replacement.

The new pillar added to the division, DEI Advancement, will be led by Joan Iva Fawcett, who is currently Associate Dean of Diversity, Inclusion, Community and Equity (DICE). The Office of Sustainability, Center for Community Engagement, Payne Center for Leadership Development, Lincoln LGBTQ+ Resource Center and Unity Multicultural Education Center (UMEC) will all move under his oversight.

The addition of a new branch to the division also resulted in more funds being reallocated to the division. In particular, the division hopes to hire a director for UMEC and the Lincoln LGBTQ+ Resource Center with a portion of those funds to supplement the work Fawcett has done overseeing those two teams.

“The opportunities and the new relationships are that we have departments and people coming together to work together who haven’t intentionally and cohesively worked together,” Porterfield said.

Ideas for a change in the organizational structure came a year and a half ago when Porterfield took the reins as the university’s vice provost for student affairs. Porterfield, a veteran of student affairs work, noticed there were gaps within the division that a new model could fill.

“The process of doing this kind of work together means you start to get to know each other better,” Porterfield said. “You begin to appreciate more deeply the work that other people do. You start connecting to the people they are connected to. You start meeting the students they work with, who may not be the same students you work with.

In consultation with the Division of Student Affairs, Porterfield has spent the last year researching student business models and writing a 15+ page document explaining the importance of this new model and the reasoning behind these pillars. The result of this effort is a new structural model that he says will transform the division to be more active in meeting student needs.

With this new model, Porterfield and Fawcett hope this structure will create more deliberate and intentional partnerships, which Porterfield calls “communities of practice.” This intentionality, they say, will lead to more holistic action by the division to address the student experience.

According to Porterfield and Fawcett, the deliberate nature of creating a third branch in the DEI-focused division, coupled with reallocating funds specifically to DEI work, will also significantly benefit the student body and especially minority students.

“Bringing them under this DEI pillar shows even more that DEI is everyone’s responsibility,” Fawcett said. “It shouldn’t be confined to one office or one person; it is integrated into all the pillars.

Porterfield expressed some concern about how dividing teams under separate deans could lead to a lack of partnerships between teams that report to two different deans. However, he also said he plans to have meetings twice a month with all directors and deans (DDT meetings) to help spark these cross-pillar relationships.

Porterfield said this model does little to strengthen the relationship between the student affairs division and the other divisions of the university structure. He hopes to further develop the division to meet this challenge.

“There is no perfect role model,” Porterfield said. “His [the people we have hired to fill these positions, the DDT meetings and additional systems]not just the new structure which hopefully has positioned us better to meet student needs, as we have defined them at least around these pillars.

While the plan is an important step in the division’s progress, according to Porterfield, this plan is only part of a three-phase plan to strengthen the Division of Student Affairs.

The first phase, in which the restructuring and the creation of the pillars takes place, is the establishment of a foundation for the division that fills some initial gaps and creates a framework for the division with regard to future planning. Porterfield said he wanted to integrate DEI into the foundation of student affairs during this phase.

The second and third phases of the plan are the next steps that Porterfield hopes to progress towards, and this is where the division hopes to gather more resources and hire all the necessary positions to then launch new initiatives.

While this is just the beginning of the changes Porterfield is seeking to make to the Student Affairs Division, he said he is hopeful for these changes and is excited about the new model and the path it is giving to the division for future transformation and new initiatives. .


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