Search for Vice President of Student Affairs includes late nights for candidates, reflective of student life

Kevin Squires, Assistant News Editor
April 17, 2014

Late nights are not out of the ordinary for students at Slippery Rock University, and according to Robert Watson, Interim Vice President for Student Affairs, anyone holding his position can expect nothing less. That’s why for the first time, candidates interviewing to be the Vice President for Student Affairs are meeting with students after 8 p.m.

“They’ve got a full day and in the world of student affairs that’s pretty much a typical day. That 15 hour day is not unusual by any stretch,” Watson said. The candidates have various interviews spanning over two day intervals, often beginning at 8 a.m. and ending around 11 p.m.

“We’ve never really had a time schedule especially for student affairs senior leadership that has included evening or later evening appointments but we felt it was important for the candidates to understand the degree of activities our students had,” he said.

Watson will be stepping down after the position is filled with a permanent replacement. A search committee will recommend candidates for SRU President Cheryl J. Norton to appoint following interviews being conducted throughout this month.

“Our job as the search committee is really to identify as many of the applicants who are interviewed on campus who are acceptable to the search committee, allowing the president as much opportunity as she has to try to figure out who’s going to fit on to her cabinet best and what role they’re going to play,” Watson explained.

He said that the role of students is very important for the interview process.

“Students are actually involved in the on campus in at least four different interviews,” he said. The sessions include an open forum for all students and meetings with ARHS, SGA and the executive board of SGA.

Katie Hill, a student on the search committee for the position, agreed with Watson. “I think [students] play a lot bigger role than they think,” she said. “This man is in charge of everything that students do in regards to what they do outside the classroom. They’re in charge of all the clubs, they oversee conduct, residence life, every aspect of the students’ life.”

According the position’s description, the units and programs under the leadership of the Senior Associate Provost are Student Development, including the Student Government Corporation, Multicultural Development, University Program Board, Student Leadership, Greek Life, Clubs and Organizations, Community Service, Student Veterans, Women’s Center and Pride Center; Student Services, including The Smith Student Center, Conference Services, Residence Life, and Dining Services; and Student Wellness, including Student Intervention; Student Counseling; Student Health; Student Conduct; and Campus Recreation.

“I think that it’s important that the candidate wants to know not just about what’s going on on campus but also the students’ individually like what are their goals and aspirations and how can that person ideally help reach their goals and potentials,” Hill said.

For Watson, that’s what the job is all about.

“The students needed to have an advocate at the senior level who knew them fairly well,” he said regarding coming into the position. “This year has been an honor for me to come back and to reengage with the students. That’s what I miss most about retirement.”

According to an e-mail sent to university students on May 16, Norton canceled the search for the position and will launch a new search later this summer with a new search committee. It stated that Watson will still be returning to retirement, with the program directors under his position’s leadership reporting to Dr. Philip Way, provost and vice president for academic affairs. Intercollegiate Athletics will continue to report to the president.

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