On Oct. 15, Student Government leaders and other students joined members of the Vice President for Campus Life search committee to discuss the search for a new individual to take the role.
The discussion was moderated by Jacob Thomas, senior and president of the Black Student Alliance, and Heidi Robinson, associate professor in the Department of Education and the assistant vice president of career education and coaching in the Office of Personal and Career Development. Thomas and Robinson catalyzed the conversation by asking three main questions.
First, the moderators asked those in attendance to consider what makes campus life at Wake Forest distinctive, particularly that the search committee could bring up these topics in interviews with potential candidates.
Students expressed viewpoints about campus life that centered on Wake Forest’s culture of community service and commitment to Pro Humanitate. Students also expressed a desire for the new VP of Campus Life to be readily available and willing to hear and work with students from all walks of campus life.
In light of the student protest that occurred in August, students also expressed that they and many of their peers desire to be heard and communicated with even if an action step is not ready to be taken. Students at the forum also emphasized that they had a high premium on transparency.
“I would look for someone that is incredibly transparent,” one student at the forum said, who due to the fast-paced nature of the discussion was unable to be identified. “It would be nice to receive a ‘We hear you. We understand you. And we’re working on it from the new vice president.”
Secondly, students were asked to brainstorm some possible challenges and opportunities the next VP for Campus Life will face in their first two-to-three years. One of the biggest concerns voiced by students is concerning the ongoing mental health struggles faced by the Wake Forest community. Students reiterated that the new VP will have to navigate the University Counseling Center being understaffed, students being frustrated about a lack of communication between different departments on campus and students being confused about what resources are available.
“The next Vice President for Campus Life needs to really put student mental health at the forefront,” another student said. “And we really want to work with different partners on campus to figure out the best way to provide mental health care.”
Students also expressed concern about a lack of equity and cultural appreciation on campus. However, students also recognized the enormous opportunity for positive change that comes with being in a position of leadership while confronting these challenges. They said the new VP for Campus Life will have the opportunity to support student mental health as well as take the time to intentionally support marginalized groups on campus and foster campus unity.
Lastly, students were asked to name essential professional skills and personal attributes the new VP for Campus Life should possess. Students said they wanted someone who was professional yet personal, collaborative, youthful in spirit and innovative.
“I would look for someone who is optimistic and goal-oriented,” one student said. “Someone who thinks outside the box.”
Students also expressed a desire to see a person of color in the position of VP for Campus Life to add diversity to the cabinet, which is currently almost entirely white.
Those in attendance were able to not only share their perspectives but also hear the perspective of their fellow classmates. Both Robinson and Thomas were pleased with the student turnout and thought the event accomplished its goal of giving space for student voices.
“The student’s voice is critical,” Robinson said after the event. “Wake Forest is about the students. I was pleased to see that students took this time. I love that our students honor this process, but that they also want to honor one another by making sure that what happens on this campus is reflective of who we are as a community.”
Any student who has any suggestions or questions for the VP for Campus Life search committee can email the search committee at [email protected] All questions or comments submitted by students will remain anonymous. Students can also learn more about the search by visiting search.campuslife.wfu.edu.