By Graig Graziosi
A national magazine has recognized Youngstown State University’s Division of Student Affairs as one of its “15+ Most Promising Places to Work in Student Affairs” for the second year in a row.
The Center for Higher Education Enterprise, an Ohio State University research organization, partnered with Diverse: Issues in Higher Education magazine to compile a nationwide ranking of student affairs divisions.
Jack Fahey, vice president for student affairs, said he believes the key to the YSU division’s success can be directly credited to its human element.
“It’s the staff. They’re really, really good people. They’re very nurturing and intentional about developing people in student affairs. The award is given based on diversity, family friendliness, about helping people to advance themselves, and we do well in all three,” Fahey said.
The term “student affairs” often encompasses a variety of campus services and departments.
“On most campuses, student affairs is three different pods of people. One includes enrollment, financial aid, management folks and admissions. Another is services and auxiliary like food services, the rec center, housing and things like that. The other is more student life kinds of things like the Center for Student Progress, tutoring, disability services, career services, counseling, student employment … it’s wide ranging,” Fahey said.
For many students, the majority of their day-to-day lives on campus are directly tied into student affairs’ areas of operation. As a student leader, Lisa Ronquillo, vice president of YSUnity, is frequently interacting with student affairs workers.
“When you work extensively with and within the [student affairs] team, they acknowledge you by your name, always say hello and remember what you are up to — they will genuinely keep up with you and ask how you are doing as well,” Ronquillo said. “Through them, I have learned the meaning of hard work, leadership, empathy and heart-felt gratitude. Without their guidance, I wouldn’t be half the leader that I am today.”
Sylvia Imler, interim director of diversity and multicultural affairs, echoed Ronquillo’s sentiments, believing the student affairs divisions’ success can be found in their enthusiasm for their work.
“When I have been in any meetings with any of [the student affairs workers] there is an energy and an excitement from them that to me is contagious. [They are] a sincere group of people and hard workers … they work together. There’s no doubt that that’s why they’ve won that award,” Imler said.
Imler said she believes the division’s positivity is a rare trait in higher education administration, where the realities of budget cuts and dwindling state support can often foster negativity.
“I get excited when I’m around them because there’s a freshness about them and they’re stimulating, they’re excited … it’s good when you see people who love what they’re doing, Negativity about your job will bring you down, but [student affairs workers] are very inspiring,” Imler said.
For Fahey, a positive student experience must begin with positive work experiences for those who serve the students.
“We have really talented people at student affairs and the kind of service orientation that they have for students they also have for their more junior staff members,” Fahey said.
Next year, the division of student affairs will be divided into three separate departments following the departure of three of the division’s four directors, including Fahey. While the measure is being taken in part to help cut costs, Fahey said he believes the departments will continue to offer the same quality of service.