Potential changes ahead for Student Affairs post consolidation

Student Affairs includes the departments generally responsible for the student experience, which may face changes after consolidation. ORACLE FILE PHOTO

Consolidation of USF’s three campuses — Tampa, St. Pete, and Sarasota-Manatee — will become a reality by 2020. Departments are already beginning to prepare, including those within Student Affairs.

Student Affairs essentially facilitates the college experience across campus. Some of the departments operating under it on the Tampa campus include the Center for Student Involvement, Campus Recreation, the Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement and the Office of Multicultural Affairs.

Although each campus has similar departments in their Student Affairs division, they are all personal to the specific campus.

How will USF attempt to consolidate such campus-specific departments then? That is a question that has yet to be answered, but the conversations have started.

It is unclear at this time if such departments will be consolidated as well, or on which campus they will be housed.

On Oct. 25, the Student Success Subcommittee of the Consolidation Implementation Committee, which has representation from each USF campus, met to begin talks of consolidation.

No conclusions were reached, according to Vice President of Tampa’s Student Affairs and Student Success Dr. Paul Dosal. However, what came out of this meeting was an initial spirit of optimism.

“There’s a lot of good work that can and should be done right now while we’re all focused on trying to develop a set of recommendations on how to make this work,” Dosal said.

These recommendations must be presented to the Consolidation Implementation Committee by next month.

The subcommittee first talked to USF’s Huron Consulting Group, who is guiding USF through the process of consolidation — a process other schools have done as well.

Huron has previously worked with the University of Wisconsin system on consolidation efforts, according to Dosal. The group talked with the subcommittee about problems that were encountered and the lessons that were learned while working with Wisconsin.

Dosal said one of the biggest pieces of advice they got was to begin working on cross-campus collaborations to focus on student success.

“Consolidation efforts seem to work best when the campuses involved have a shared philosophy, mission and vision … by articulating that perhaps more formally, we might be able to facilitate our work,” Dosal said.

Coming from Dosal’s experience, he said this vision will involve a change in culture which is supportive of student success.

“Part of that philosophy is that we believe, here in Tampa, when we admit a student, that student will succeed,” Dosal said.

However, one of the toughest parts of consolidation, according to Dosal, is balancing the need for personalized service that identifies the needs of each campus while also allowing them to be unified.

Describing this meeting as possibly pivotal, Dosal said consolidation may present an opportunity to serve students better.

“We have to aim for the same things,” Dosal said. “We have to deliver the same high-quality practices across three campuses, and we have to do so as one.”