An Opportunity of my (Professional) Lifetime

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Daniel M. Maxwell, Ed.D. Interim Vice President for Student Affairs, University of Houston Clear Lake

June 6, 2019

It has been another rewarding year as a student affair professional. Like many of my colleagues, I am taking time during the month of June to reflect on the accomplishments of this past year, wrapping up final reports and tasks, preparing to write my annual report, and planning for next year.  As I reflect on this past year, I am beyond grateful for the occasion provided to me as I enter in the last month as the Interim Vice President for Student Affairs at the University of Houston Clear Lake (UHCL). 

My career has provided me occasions to work in private and public institutions, land grant and regional settings, comprehensive research institutions, and two systems. Over the last 30 years, I have grown with each new opportunity with progressively more responsibility.  As the Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs for the University of Houston System (UHS) and the Associate Vice President for Student Affairs for the University of Houston (UH) since January 2012, I have had the unique occasion to work with the four institutions that make up the UH System including UHCL.  When I was asked by President Ira Blake to serve as the Interim Vice President for Student Affairs at UHCL, while maintaining a modified role with UHS/UH, I said yes.  At that time, I had participated in a couple of national searches for the role of vice president and had learned a great deal through the respective processes.  I felt ready to serve at that next level and disappointed in the outcome of said searches.  But as they say, when one door closes, another opens.  UHCL was an opportunity of my professional lifetime and I was honored, excited, and prepared to serve. 

UHCL is going through a major transformational shift in executive leadership and as an institution. The President is in her second year following the previous president who served for 22 years. In the last year, the President has searched for and appointed a new Provost, Vice President for Administration and Finance, and Executive Director of Human Resources along with appointing interim vice presidents for Student Affairs and University Advancement. In my role, the previous chief student affairs officer served for 24 years and reported to the Provost. In the new organization, the Division of Student Affairs is a stand-alone division with the Vice President reporting directly to the President and as a member of her Core Leadership Team (cabinet). One of the many highlights from this past year was leading my staff in the redefining and rebranding the “new” Division of Student Affairs (DSA). This year was not about maintaining the status quo until a new VPSA was hired, but to lead in every sense of the word as the chief student affairs officer.   

DSA is comprised of 13 departments, 70 staff and 200 student employees, with financial responsibility for an annual budget exceeding $6.3M. I serve as a primary advisor to the President on student issues.  UHCL, founded as an upper division institution, is in its fifth year of downward expansion and I have challenged the staff re-think how we deliver our programs and services across a student body that now includes first time in college freshmen along with transfer students with less than 60 credits. I spent a majority of the fall semester building a new sense of synergy across the division while evaluating the division’s programs, services, practices, and policies.  I had the opportunity to realign the division functionally, hire new staff, and implement new initiatives.  I also built on the partnerships from across the institution and provided new insight and understanding to the division. 

A healthy working relationship with my new peers continues to be very beneficial in providing a seamless and inclusive learning environment for all students.  In my role as Interim Vice President, I have developed a strong partnership with the Provost and the members of the Core Leadership Team (cabinet).  The investment in these relationships have proven valuable in succeeding with campus wide initiatives along with support for changes within DSA.  For example, the Provost and I acknowledge that student success is a priority across the institution and agreed to realign the student academic support services departments from Student Affairs to Academic Affairs to create a new portfolio that aligned these departments with the academic advising units across the institution. In addition, the Provost reorganized the Enrollment Management and International Admissions teams that provided an opportunity to bring International student orientation and programming to DSA along with the Veteran Services Office.  Likewise, the CFO and I agreed to move the shuttle bus program out of DSA to Parking and Transportation while boosting campus support for a new university ID card operation that is managed within the Student Assistance Center in DSA.  The relationship I have fostered with the new executive director of Human Resources has provided the support needed to re-evaluate existing positions, update position description, and realign the department functions across the division.  As I stated earlier, this was not a year about maintaining the status quo.  It was about lifting the good work we do in Student Affairs and redefining our role and scope in supporting student success at UHCL.  I am beyond proud of our accomplishments and know that we have situated the division in a very good place for the new VPSA, Dr. Aaron Hart, who will begin his tenure at UHCL on July 1, 2019.

As I reflect on the past year, I am reminded of NASPA’s AVP Competencies:  politics; skill competencies; human resources; leadership and strategic vision; resource allocation, acquisition, and management; and, law and policy.  My commitment to investing in my professional development and growth around these competencies over the last seven years were essential in my success this past year.  My service as the Associate Vice Chancellor and Associate Vice President did provide me with the experience necessary to effectively serve as the Interim Vice President this past year and my next opportunity to serve as a Vice President for Student Affairs.  Until then, I will wrap what has been a very productive and rewarding year before heading back full-time to being the best AVC/AVP or #2 that has benefitted me as a student affair professional.   

Daniel M. Maxwell, Ed.D.
Interim Vice President for Student Affairs, University of Houston Clear Lake
Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, University of Houston System
Associate Vice President for Student Affairs, University of Houston


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