The AVP Spotlight series is an initiative of the NASPA AVP Steering Committee and is designed to highlight many of the outstanding contributions to the profession that are made by AVPs across the country.
This edition features Kathryn Kay Coquemont, Assistant Vice President for Student Development at Salt Lake Community College.
AVP. Kathryn, please share with us your with us your title, institution, years of service in your current role, and years of service as a student affairs professional.
KKC. My name is Kathryn Kay Coquemont, and I serve as the Assistant Vice President for Student Development at Salt Lake Community College. I have been in my role for less than a year and have served as a student affairs professional now for 11 years. Prior to joining higher education I worked as a change management consultant for a number of years.
AVP. What areas are within your portfolio?
KKC. I support diversity and multicultural affairs, academic advising, disability resources, TRiO programs, and career services. In addition to supervising these areas, I co-chair a bridge program between my two-year community college and the flagship, four-year University in my state.
AVP. What do you enjoy doing most in your current role?
KKC. I love strategic thinking and planning, and then the work it takes to get others to buy into a common vision. I enjoyed this when I was a consultant, but am much more passionate about these things when it supports student success and equity and access to higher education.
AVP. How have you been involved in NASPA?
KKC. I currently serve on the Region V Advisory Board as the Utah Membership Coordinator and as the Chair for the 2019 Western Regional Conference. In the past, I have also served on the Engagement sub-committee for the 2018 Annual Conference, as a Faculty Member for the Dungy Leadership Institute (DLI), as a Board Member for the Center for Women, as the Co-Chair for the Asian Pacific Islander Knowledge Community Mentoring Program, as a NASPA Undergraduate Fellows Program (NUFP) Mentor, as the Major Speakers Chair for the 2016 Western Regional Conference, and as a Co-Chair for the NUFP Institute at the 2014 Western Regional Conference. If you can’t tell, I really love NASPA and having the opportunity to give back to a community through which I have learned so much.
AVP. What is the best advice you would give to yourself as a new professional knowing what you know now?
KKC. You will never regret giving other people grace and assuming the best about them. You will always regret judging too quickly or thinking you understand the complete picture. In your professional life, this will help you be a better advisor, advocate, colleague, and supervisor. This follows the adage that people will forget what you said and forget what you did, but will never forget how you made them feel.
AVP. What is something you are most proud of as an AVP?
KKC. I am currently the only woman of color at my level or higher at my institution, and it is personally meaningful to have the opportunity to represent more than myself. Having a diversity of identities and experiences around a table makes us better, and having the ability to thoughtfully advocate for historically marginalized populations is an incredible privilege. I am lucky that although I am sometimes the only woman of color in a meeting, many of my colleagues care about increasing access and representation for our students, staff/faculty, and wider community.
AVP. AVP roles are challenging! What do you do outside of work to ensure that you’re fresh and energized for your campus job?
KKC. My life on weekdays is almost entirely focused on the needs of my children, my job, or my home (e.g. laundry, cleaning). So at the end of the workday, I usually want to decompress by watching a show or reading before going to sleep. I also have a babysitter who comes every Saturday night so I am able to connect with my partner without any interruptions, which is invaluable to helping me feel like my life is not just taking care of others. I would like to be a good role model and say that sleep and exercise are what helps me recharge, but the reality is that I get too little of both and probably rely overly on Hulu and good restaurants.
AVP. What do you do for fun when you’re not working?
KKC. I have a wonderful partner, three kids, a high energy dog, and the best mountains you could ask for if you’re like me and part of a family who enjoys the outdoors and being active outside. Every Friday night I host a game night at my house, which allows me to reconnect with friends after my kids are asleep. My family and I also love exploring and spend a lot of time either travelling or planning our next trip.
AVP. How do you balance your personal life with your professional responsibilities?
KKC. I believe balance is moment to moment, rather than an overall picture. I prioritize and reprioritize all the time. Recently, my kids were sick, so they had to take priority over anything else in a major way. Likewise, when there is something big occurring at work, sometimes which needs to be factored into my life and other things need to be scaled down. My partner and I are constantly navigating how one of us can step up for our family when the other one needs to devote extra time to work. I’ve also learned how to say no to things that I am not truly passionate about or are not “musts” in my job description. Recently, I was asked to author a book chapter, which is an incredible honor, but the deadline would have required me to sacrifice significant time with my family. Given that I’m still in the first year of a new role and have other leadership obligations already, I know that I need to limit the other professional things I take on if I want to have the time I cherish for my family and personal pursuits. I’m not always the best at saying “no”, so often I have to reframe it for myself as “not now”.
AVP. What are you reading now (or have you read recently)?
KKC. This is going to seem like an ad, but I’m actually reading the NASPA book AVP: Leading from the Unique Role of Associate/Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs. I tend to read a lot of books at once and pick up the one that fits my mood that night, so I’m also halfway into Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Live from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed and re-reading Redesigning America’s Community Colleges by Thomas R. Bailey, Shanna Smith Jaggars, and Davis Jenkins.