Student Affairs fills executive leadership

After a year’s worth of planning and searching, Vice President of Student Affairs Jennifer Meningall has completed a reorganization of her staff, which should make student’s experiences at USF more enriching.

To complete this restructuring, Student Affairs has hired three new employees and reclassified one existing employee on Meningall’s executive leadership team.

Guy Conway, former director of the Phyllis P. Marshall Center, was promoted to the position of Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs and Kevin Banks was hired as assistant vice president and dean of students over the summer.

The latest additions to the team, Associate Vice Presidents Tracey Tyree and James Dragna, have served in similar administrative capacities at other universities and are beginning to discuss their plans for the future of USF.

Dragna, who was hired in August, previously held the position of associate vice chancellor of Student Affairs at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Tyree started working at USF several weeks ago, and before coming to USF worked as dean of student life at Susquehanna University.

Student Affairs had previously been under the direction of Tom Miller, who acted as both associate vice president of Student Affairs and dean of students.

Miller resigned in order to teach graduate classes in the College of Education.

Meningall said she chose Dragna and Tyree when restructuring the leadership team because they had significant experience in Student Affairs at other universities.

Conway said his experiences with Dragna and Tyree were positive, though he hadn’t yet had a chance to work with them on many projects.

“It’s been great. I think that both of them come with excellent experience,” Conway said.

According to Dragna, one of the projects he’s spearheading includes a student-oriented assessment of the success of University services. Dragna also said USF is the first university in the country to implement this kind of “learning outcomes” method on such a large scale. The measurement will not include standard assessments such as competency tests.

“Now traditionally, Student Affairs – and many other offices at universities in general – have looked at their work with its value related to whether students are satisfied with the services and whether the students had a good experience within the service,” Dragna said. “But more specifically, now we’re understanding a more complete mission. What we’re identifying is a question that hasn’t been answered yet: what really do students learn within their college experience?”

Dragna said the goal of such a measurement would be to see if students acquire a desired learning outcome from the University’s range of services and programs.

“Before giving a program – for instance, on diversity – we would ask the students beforehand what are some of their understandings of things like power and privilege. Then after that particular presentation, we would ask them again, and see how effective was that presentation and moving students along a specified learning outcome like pluralistic maturity, and how did that help the student not only after that particular program, but throughout their career.”

In addition to this project, Dragna’s duties entail dealing with Resident Services, multicultural education programming, disability, the LEARN program, and another program aimed at acclimating first-generation college students to a university setting.

Tyree is in charge of supervising Campus Recreation, the Counseling Center for Human Development, Student Health Services, New Student Programs and Student Publications. Tyree said she intends to expand beyond these duties.

“I am going to be a person within Student Affairs that really works to develop relationships with undergraduate and graduate programs to try to build up a more comprehensive, collaborative student experience.”

Tyree will also represent Student Affairs on the Academic Integrity Committee and work with Admissions to bring students to USF, as well as work with staff development in the Student Affairs office.

Both Dragna and Tyree underwent a lengthy application process.

“I went through what I would consider a fairly rigorous interview process,” Tyree said. “I applied for the position and then had a phone interview and then a campus interview and then a follow-up airport interview. And of course, there was a reference checking and a degree-confirmation process as well.”

Dragna, who first read about the opening in The Chronicle of Higher Education, described a similar process.

“I went through a search process. I was invited to come. I went through a series of interviews and had an opportunity to meet people from all over the University, which said to me that they really were serious about this business, otherwise I would have only seen selected people. So this was going to be something where academics and student affairs and all the parts of the university were coming together.”

Dragna and Tyree said they look forward to implementing and completing their projects while at USF.

“I will say that I am very excited about joining a team in Student Affairs that has the student experience and student learning as its primary focus … I think that it’s just really an exciting time to be here on campus, an exciting time to be a student, and an exciting time to work with students.”