USF’s large number of commuter and transfer students have made it difficult for the University to recreate a college experience similar to more traditional schools, such as the University of Florida and the University of Georgia. However USF administrators are trying to make that experience a reality.
The office of Student Affairs is undergoing an overhaul, which should enhance the collegiate experience as well as students’ relationships with the University.
Vice President of Student Affairs Jennifer Meningall released a plan this month that she said would help create an increased sense of belonging and opportunity for students at USF by reorganizing SA and adding more staff positions.
“What we noticed, and what I noticed, is that we were severely shorthanded in staff as compared to other institutions outside,” Meningall said. “We were really kind of organized in a way that looked as though we were a much smaller school, and so what I’ve done is tried to expand the work so that we make sure students are learning outside of the classroom as well as in, and that we provide as many opportunities as possible for students to get engaged and involved.”
Since Meningall started with USF in July, she said she has met with groups of 50 or more students on nearly 10 occasions in order to develop a plan more catered to student desires and needs.
“There were certain themes that came out of there – that most of our students who are currently attending just didn’t feel an allegiance to the University,” Meningall said. “They compared us often to other schools that either their friends went to or they had visited themselves and just said, ‘USF is just a plain old commuter campus, and we don’t have a real campus life, and the things we do are OK, that’s fine, but why aren’t we like other places?'”
According to officials, SA has not changed its operating model since 1970, when there were half as many students enrolled as there are today.
“Think about how much harder we’ve had to work, or how much less support we’ve been able to provide to students,” Associate Director of Student Affairs Laurie Woodward said. “Now more people are going to be available to do more with more students.”
According to Executive Assistant of Student Affairs Elizabeth Kaplon, three upper-level administrative positions have been advertised and search committees have been organized to help with the selection process.
Under Meningall’s plan, there would be a new assistant vice president for Student Success who would oversee student relations, multicultural education and programming, student programs, academic support and accommodations, as well as planning for retention and assessment.
There would also be an assistant to the dean of students who would oversee Student Judicial Services, Greek Life, Student Government and Student Activities.
For the last few years, Tom Miller has taken on the role of both the dean of students and associate vice president of Student Affairs. In August, Miller will step down from his role with SA to fill a faculty position in a graduate program for the College of Student Affairs.
Miller oversees every department under SA except University Police. He was first appointed as dean of students in October 2001, where he supervised Student Relations and Student Judicial Services.
Woodward will also step down in order to complete a dissertation for a doctorate degree in higher education administration.
Woodward oversees Volunteer USF, the Office of Student Programs, student organizations, the Campus Activities Board and University Lecture Series.
Director of the Phyllis P. Marshall Center Guy Conway would be promoted to Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs and oversee the Marshall Center, special events and marketing for SA.
In addition, Kaplon said SA will be looking for three to five lower-level administrative positions to be filled next year.
She said some of the positions SA would most like to fill would be for directors in Multicultural and Educational Programming, Greek Life, Volunteer USF and Engagement and Involvement.
Most of the people in charge in these positions are coordinators, and Meningall as well as others in SA want to bring in directors to oversee and develop their programs.
Coordinator for Greek Life Dyonne Butler will be leaving her position at USF to pursue her doctorate at the University of Georgia. A search committee for a new director of Greek Life has also been organized.
According to SG Adviser Jennifer Brack, the process of advertising for a new director should begin as early as next week.
In order to make way for these changes, SA will have to increase the amount of funding it receives from outside the University.
SA receives $45 million from USF, which is 3 percent of the entire University budget. In January, Meningall hired Blanch Wilson to help increase the amount of grant money the division receives.
“We need to stabilize our funding. We need more money. Tuition and fees are going up; we don’t want to keep taxing that. State dollars are going down, so we can’t keep taxing that; so I’ve added a fundraising position and a grant position so we can get more money in to do all of this work.”
Meningall said a final dollar amount for the overhaul should be completed within the next few weeks.