From this perspective…A reflection on being a VPSA

Myron Pope, NASPA IV-W Oklahoma Membership Coordinator

March 29, 2017

About twenty years ago, I had a few people who I looked up to who were Vice Presidents of Student Affairs.  They were inspiring, dynamic, and they were always encouraging of me.  They were engaged with students, and they were creating some really dynamic programs that were impacting students’ lives.  Naturally, I felt that I wanted to be in such a role.  I wanted to guide the ship that provided this significant influence and change in students’ lives.  However, as ESPNs Lee Corso always says, ”Not so fast!”, as the job entailed so much more than I ever imagined.

First, the VPSAs who I encountered in my youth were consummate mentors to all of us who aspired to the role, and they were very engaged also on their campuses in encouraging and supporting students.  I continue to do the same thing, but it is increasingly more difficult due to administrative conflicts and expectations.  The role of VPSA has evolved into one at my institution where I am playing a very active role in community engagement, legislative affairs, fundraising, and other external affairs’ related activities.  Some of these expectations existed in the past, but they seem to be more prevalent today.  The opportunity and ability to be engaged with students is compromised.  In order to maintain this connection, and also be able to balance life, family, health, and other factors, I have had to find creative ways to stay connected with the individuals who are committed to serving.  As you “climb the corporate ladder”, this balance and focus on remembering why we truly possess these jobs is important. 

I also realized that the journey for me was not a usual one.  I had individuals who saw things in me that I did not see in myself.  Consequently, I rose very quickly to my current role.  I was named Vice President of Enrollment Management at the University of Central Oklahoma in 2005.  I became the Vice President of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management in 2013.  In both cases, the opportunities came about 10, 15, probably 20 years sooner than I expected.  In reflecting on that, I believe that it is important to have a plan for where you want to be, but realize that sometimes things don’t always follow the script.  Constantly commit to improving yourself, and certainly try to become engaged at the local, regional, and national levels.  The exposure that you receive will be relevant in your professional growth.  These experiences prepared me for this role in ways that I never imagined, but it caused me to grow exponentially, which others witnessed.  I will say, don’t rush to get to the “finish line” because to get there and realize that you are not properly equipped will be detrimental to your success.  However, if the opportunity should be presented to you, be sure that you have done all that you can to acquire the skills and abilities to be a success in it.

Finally, it is important to always maintain a sense of integrity in your work.  I had a good friend and mentor who recently said to me, “Adversity does not define your character. It reveals it.”  There will be tough times and challenges with which you will be confronted.  As stewards of the resources and the role of developing the next generation of engaged and ethical citizens, we need to be sure that we model the way for them.  We have to live our lives in such a way that our integrity and character should never be questioned.  You have to remember why you are here in whatever your role is.  If you can keep that in perspective, it will go a long way in ensuring that you will always come out on top.  The journey won’t always be easy, but remembering and recommitting yourself during this time and daily to the work of serving our students has to remain paramount. I wish you well as you continue to think  about the possibility of being a VPSA. 

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