Eric Grospitch, Vice President for Student Life, Washburn University
September 29, 2016
It’s been approximately 75 days, 8 hours and 20 minutes since I set foot on campus as the new Vice President for Student Life. The experience has been a whirlwind but my time as an AVP truly prepared me for this opportunity.
I want to take a few minutes to pass along a few lessons learned from my time as an AVP that I have taken to heart in these first couple of months.
1.) Listen for meaning and intent. While we were AVP’s we had to learn how to understand what was being said and ensuring we knew how to communicate the needs of our students and colleagues. That skill will serve you well as a VP. The focus on intent in this message though is different. At a new campus, or in a new role you, become either the champion for someone or a road block. Recognize if the request is truly for the students/university or for the benefit of the individual requesting.
2.) Not every idea is a good one. As AVP I used to be the buffer between students, faculty and staff and my Vice President, now the only person I’m buffering is myself. I have found that even though I believe in a program’s concept, mission or even need it isn’t as simple as saying “go for it.” In a different way than I had before, I have to balance the needs of all units. Give yourself time to listen, reflect and then act. Unless it is a crisis situation, nothing has to be done immediately – no matter what the requestor tells you.
3.) Every decision has a ripple effect. As AVP/Dean of Students I was acutely aware of precedent setting as it came to student discipline and student organization management. In this role it is no different. In fact, it may be magnified. Keep the process you used in decision making in mind and keep that big picture perspective.
4.) Understand your University mission and strategic plan. As AVP we were able to take part in mission setting and strategic planning, that may be done already and it’s our role to carry it out. As you work to set vision and plans for the division/unit, it’s critical to keep those plans and measures in place. It streamlines the decision process and provides support from other campus leaders.
5.) You aren’t alone. On campus we had peers and those that we could safely ask that “dumb question,” vent frustration or simply commiserate with. While a new campus or new role changes that, I cannot stress enough the support, guidance and direction that I have received from my AVP and VP colleagues from NASPA. Get involved and build those connections now, they are invaluable.
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