On Tuesday, Oct. 26, Vice President for Student Affairs Celestino Limas announced via a news bulletin that he is taking Dean of Campus Life Laura Kane’s departure as an opportunity to restructure the Student Affairs Division.
The news bulletin came just one day after the departure of Kane, who announced her abrupt resignation two weeks ago. Limas said that Kane leaving is an opportunity to reconsider what exactly falls under the umbrella of Student Affairs. After redefining the role in the next six to eight weeks, he will lead an extensive search during the spring semester to find Kane’s replacement by July 1.
“I do want to take the next six to eight weeks and understand, what should that portfolio be? And then, more importantly, I need to make the case to the student body and to colleagues as to why this is the right portfolio going forward to house within Student Affairs,” Limas said.
President Sean Decatur further explained this reshuffling of the division. “With the departure of Laura Kane, [Limas is] interested in both filling that position but also thinking about what type of structures fit best to serve the goals of the campus . . . in terms of what works best for meeting the needs of students.”
The offices Dean Kane oversaw included the Office of First-Year Experience, the Office of Student Engagement, the Office of Residence Life and the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities.
Although the extent of the division’s restructuring is not yet determined, Limas has already announced one permanent change: The Office of First-Year Experience will now fall under the purview of Academic Affairs, and will be overseen by Thomas Hawks, dean of academic advising and support. According to Limas, when the office was first created, there was discussion about whether it should be located in the Academic or Student Affairs division, but ultimately it was placed under Student Affairs. He saw Dean Kane’s departure as an opportunity to try something new.
The office will continue to have a close relationship with Student Engagement, but Limas said this change is an opportunity for growth. He highlighted the transition from the admissions process to enrollment and first-year experience as an area for improvement, specifically in regards to streamlining communication with incoming students. Limas also noted that he is in close conversation with Vice President for Enrollment and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Diane Anci and Provost Jeff Bowman — who heads the Academic Affairs Division — regarding this change.
Limas’ restructuring of student affairs also saw several temporary changes. Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Chris Kennerly will now oversee the Office of Student Engagement. Limas highlighted this as an exciting opportunity.
“I’m excited about [Chris] overseeing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion — this gives a chance now for the Office of Student Engagement to think about how we can weave in that lens to everything we do,” he said.
Director of Student Rights and Responsibilities James Jackson will continue to oversee the Office of Students Rights and Responsibilities, as well as the Office of Residential Life, which he has been overseeing temporarily while Director of Residential Life Jillian Yoder has been on leave. Limas said that when Yoder returns in the spring she will take the helm of Residential Life, and Jackson’s title will change to Interim Senior Director of Campus Life.
“I am excited to see VP Limas’ vision for how these departments [can better] serve students,” Jackson wrote in an email to the Collegian.
Beyond the Student Affairs Division, Kane also served as advisor to Student Council. After discussion with members of Student Council, Limas nominated Dean of Students Robin Hart Ruthenbeck to the position. Student Council unanimously confirmed Ruthenbeck on Sunday.
Limas said that despite many administrators taking on additional duties, these structural changes have not led to any strain or reduction in programming.
“Not one of them, I think, is having any sort of struggle — with this being the pure augmentation — this is fitting into what they’re already doing,” he said. “It could very well be that some of these temporary plans are actually in [students’] best interest and my best interest to have them persist after this academic year.”
In his announcement, Limas also welcomed students several times to share their input on what they want from a new senior member of the Student Affairs Division. He said that he will continue to involve students throughout the process, including on the search committee for Kane’s replacement.