January 10, 2018
Question (Q): Amy, please share with us your current role at Arkansas Tech University.
Amy N. Pennington (Amy): I am in my seventh year as the Dean of Students at Arkansas Tech University. I completed my 20th year in the student affairs profession in June 2017. During the past 20 years I’ve worked as a Student Recruitment and Publicity Specialist, Director of Housing Programs, Director of International and Multicultural Student Services, Adjunct Instructor, Training Associate for Noel-Levitz, and my current role as Dean of Students
Q: Describe the units within your portfolio and if you have any specific duties in addition to providing supervision to those units.
Amy: I currently supervise five departments within the Division of Student Services at Arkansas Tech University: Public Safety, Residence Life, Campus Life, Student Wellness, and Diversity and Inclusion. In addition to supervision of these areas, I serve as the Student Conduct Administrator for the campus and provide leadership for the Office of Student Conduct. I also serve as chair our behavioral intervention team, the CARE Team, and lead our Jerry Cares campaign, a comprehensive educational outreach and training program to keep students safe and well-informed.
Q: What do you enjoy doing most in your current role?
Amy: Helping students find success in and through trying and difficult times. This is my passion and special interest. My work in student conduct and with the behavioral intervention team is very rewarding and seeing successful outcomes keeps me motivated and ready for the next challenge.
Q: How do you balance your personal life with your professional responsibilities?
Amy: Balance just isn’t easy. I think we all try, but work inevitably creeps in to our personal lives through never ending email, late night phone calls, and work challenges that won’t easily leave our minds. A colleague of mine and a licensed counselor recently exposed our student affairs team to the practice of mindfulness. Since then, I’ve become more interested in trying to simply be more present when I’m not a work and focusing on what’s happening around me. Simply being in the moment and bringing my full attention to present time, helps me keep focus and feel better about the juggling act.
Q: How have you been involved in NASPA and do you currently serve NASPA?
Amy: NASPA has supported me throughout my professional career. Through NASPA, I’ve had the opportunity to network, build a base of valuable and supportive colleagues, and have access to excellent resources which have helped me accomplish many of my goals. I currently serve NASPA as the AVP Liaison on the NASPA IV-West Advisory Board.
Q: What is the best advice you would give to yourself as a new professional knowing what you know now?
Amy: Never stop looking for ways to do something better. Shift lenses often and try to see all perspectives. Don’t settle for the status quo, strive for excellence in all you do. Our students deserve our best work. It is important as professionals to make every effort to operate from a proactive posture as opposed to finding ourselves functioning in reactionary mode. Take time to invest in strategic planning, and don’t stop there. Use the plans to guide your work.
Q: What is something you are most proud of as an AVP?
Amy: Arkansas Tech University was recently recognized by NaBITA as the 2017 Best Practices/Institutional Impact Award winner for our Jerry Cares campaign. This is a program that I, along with other colleagues on our campus, launched in 2014. From this campaign, I was able to propose the implementation of a behavioral intervention team in 2015. To see these programs flourish and to observe students benefitting from the services is extremely rewarding. To see the work of our campus community being recognized by NaBITA, the leading experts in this area, is a highlight of my career.
Q: AVP roles are challenging! What do you do outside of work to ensure that you’re fresh and energized for your campus job?
Amy: You have to take care of yourself and get rest. The single best gift I attempt to give myself each day is a good night’s sleep. It’s key to feeling refreshed and energized for the day.
Q: What do you do for fun when you’re not working?
Amy: Spending time with my family is my fun outlet. As the holidays approach, I find myself anxiously awaiting good times with my family. I’m very blessed to have a supportive husband who is also a higher education professional and colleague. He understands the demands of the industry which provides a tremendous support system. Together we have four wonderful children. Our youngest daughter still lives at home. Her activities are our activities! We’re just coming off of an awesome softball season. It’s great fun to spend our weekends watching her play a sport she loves and spend time with other parents who have become good friends. Next up, she’s preparing to dance in the Nutcracker Ballet!
Q: Finally, what are you reading now (or have you read recently)?
Amy: My email. Joking, kind of! A faculty colleague just gifted me with the book, Thrive, by Arianna Huffington. It’s a book about redefining success and very much points back to the question above about balancing personal life and professional responsibilities. It’s highly recommended by my faculty colleague and I look forward to reading it.
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