August 11, 2017
Two years ago I made the move from Director to Dean of Students and with this move I changed institutions, cities, and roles. My family and I moved from a city we had lived in for about eleven years to a city we had never lived in. The institution I am at now is significantly smaller than the one I had left going from over 20,000 students to about 4,000. In my role, I went from supervising a few areas of responsibility to supervising multiple departments. I was new to the institution, position, and location.
As I prepare to start my third year, I find myself reflecting on the past two. There are several experiences that have been important to this transition. It is my hope that you will find this information helpful, if you are transitioning to this role for the first time.
1) Attend the NASPA AVP Institute: In 2015, when I was at the NASPA national conference, I learned about the AVP Institute. Upon appointment to my current role, I made the decision to attend the next institute. Content sessions like, “Aligning Resources with Priorities: Connecting Tactics to Strategy” and “Stakeholders: Moving Colleagues Towards Allies” gave me skills to think more strategically as my previous roles had been primarily operational and tactical. In addition, I have recently accessed material from the session, “Death, Taxes, and Change” as my institution is going through a Presidential transition. Even more valuable than the sessions were the relationships that I was able to develop with colleagues in similar positions. There are people, in similar roles, who I now can connect with when advice or input is needed.
2) Connections with other AVPs/Deans in my area: Before moving to Philadelphia, I had eleven years where I developed a strong cohort of colleagues in the DC area, whom I could connect with when needed. I found that I missed these colleagues when I moved. Although I have built relationships with fellow Deans at my current institution, there were no other individuals at my level within Student Affairs. As a result, I reached out to other AVP/Deans in my area. I found out that there was a group of Deans who use to meet, however, they had not met as a group in three years. Now twelve of us meet every three to six months. This group has been an important support network to connect with and share information.
3) Creating opportunities: At times you need to take steps to create opportunities for yourself that benefit both your division and you. When the College of Arts and Sciences Dean position was vacant, I reached out to the Provost and asked to be included on the search. Following my request, the Provost asked me to co-chair the search committee and I accepted. The greatest benefit from this opportunity was the connections I made with many individuals from Academic Affairs. These relationships would not have developed as easily without this opportunity and they will serve the division well in the future as Student Affairs forges partnerships with Academic Affairs.
As Sofia Bautista Pertuz wrote in her blog in 2015, “Starting a new position at a new institution is difficult…” As you transition to your new role it is important that you take advantage of professional development opportunities, connect with colleagues, and keep an eye out for opportunities. Good luck in your new role!
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