The AVP as a Supervisor

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Valerie Randall-Lee, Assistant Vice President Of Student Affairs/Dean of Students, Salisbury University

April 30, 2019

Prior to moving into an Assistant Vice President role, an individual has typically honed many of the necessary skills to be successful as an AVP, or #2.  What we often don’t realize is that how you use some of those skills will change drastically in this unique role of #2.  We really don’t talk about how very different your job as an AVP will be, from the role of a Director of a Department, or specialized area.  Where you needed to be able to set a vision and strategic plan for your specialized area you managed, you now need to interpret the vision of your Vice President to your Directors and guide them in interpreting their plans based on that vision.  Where you were helping new and mid-level professionals develop competencies, you now need to recognize Directors as the campus “experts” for their areas, and identify how you can help them be successful.  You need to know how to motivate your directors to work as a diversified team, for the success of the division.  It is a hands off position, while having your hands in everything at once. 

The first two years after I moved out of managing housing and residence life and took an Assistant VP position were the hardest.  Someone else was in charge of housing and residence life and the best thing that happened to me was that housing and residence life did not report directly to me.  That did not stop me from wanting to pass on my “wisdom” on how to manage a staff member, set program direction, how to make decisions on budgets, and construction design.  However, it was time to let someone else develop those skills, and make those decisions.  The skill I had to learn was how to step back and acknowledge there were many ways to be successful, and mine was not always the best, or the only way to go. 

As a supervisor, an AVP needs to learn to have trust in the experience of their directors and let them run their areas.  Your job is to interpret the vision of your Vice President to your directors, and help them flush out the many ways they can support that vision within their specialized locus of control.  An AVP learns that to be successful, their ego must move to the back seat, while they act as the interpreter between the directors and areas they manage, and the Vice President and President’s executive staff. 

If you don’t like the idea of losing control of areas, and not having your voice making final decisions on directions and visions for your division, or specific areas within your division, you may not like the role of an AVP, and that’s okay. All jobs require different skills and we need to each find our purpose that allows each of us to blossom.  As an effective supervisor, an AVP will do all they can to ensure the ability for their directors to really own their areas and be successful.  The same is true of their responsibility to their Vice President.  We who sit in the role of #2 know we are successful when our areas of responsibility are being well-recognized within the institution for being effective, our directors are developing as professionals and feel safe to take risks that support the success of our students, division, and the University, and that our Vice President feels supported enough to trust your decision-making so they can respond to the needs of the president, trustees, etc.  An AVP is #2, because our role is not to be in front.  We are on the side, or walk behind…. for our Vice President, and for those we supervise.

Valerie Randall-Lee | AVP of Student Affairs/Dean of Students | Saliisbury University


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