By Christine Nappi, Senior Writer
Students will be welcoming a new vice president of student life in the coming weeks.
Four finalists for the position were announced to the student body on March 20, after a months-long search process that began in Fall 2021. The finalists that remain are Stanley Singleton, Ph.D., Ronald Gray, Ph.D., Michael Hutmaker, Ph.D. and Adam Rockman, Ph.D.
“Of the four candidates we have left, I believe that they’re all super qualified and all great allies of students,” Kevin Rojas, student body president and member of the selection committee, said.
The college is hosting hours for each candidate to meet with students, faculty and student life representatives. Singleton is scheduled to meet with the campus on Monday, March 28, Gray will be on March 31, and Hutmaker will be on April 1. Candidate Rockman was able to visit campus on March 22.
The new VP of Student Life will take the place of Esmilda Abreu-Hornbostel, the current interim VP of Student Life.
The selection committee, which consists of faculty, staff and students who represent all areas of the college, reviewed applications and interviewed and identified semi-finalists for the position. From this group, the four finalists were selected. After the finalists visit campus, the committee reconvenes and uses feedback from the community to advise the president in selecting the new VP.
President O’Donnell, who interviews each of the candidates, describes that the VP of student life is meant to support students in all aspects of campus life.
“[The VP should be] understanding students in all their diversity and having a passion for supporting and leading students as they develop their full potential inside and outside the classroom,” O’Donnell wrote in an email to The Quadrangle. “A true commitment to building community in line with our Lasallian values.”
The VP of Student Life oversees all areas of student life, both in and out of the classroom. Whether it be in residence life, commuter services, athletics, student engagement, the career center, extracurricular activities and more, the VP is responsible for everything students encounter on a daily basis.
Provost Steven Schreiner, Ph.D., says given the gravity of the position, the interview process has been taken very seriously. As he describes, the college is looking for someone who can help contribute to its ultimate mission of serving and supporting students in all walks of life.
“It’s a really important position, and that’s why we take it so seriously,” Schreiner said. “I’m really interested in finding somebody who is awesome and somebody who also wants to be here to help us move our vision and mission forward… the role is really at that level of leading, overseeing, and helping everyone with a common vision.”
As O’Donnell, Schreiner and Rojas describe, the new VP of Student Life must come with leadership skills, some expertise and experience in the field, and must ultimately have a genuine care and interest in student’s lives.
However, as Rojas describes, the new VP of student life will need to meet the unique needs of Manhattan College that other schools may not have. With the candidates coming to campus, Rojas finds that they’ll be able to grasp what the needs of the students are.
“Although all these candidates have worked at over a bunch of different universities before,” Rojas said. “While they might share some similarities and the challenges they face, we also have our own unique set of problems and ways we handle things. So kind of letting them get a taste for all of that.”
One of the most important qualities that Rojas is looking for in the four finalists is transparency. He describes that students are looking for someone who is going to listen to student needs and make them feel like they have a say.
“What we were trying to prioritize the most was selecting a candidate that would promote transparency, as well as acknowledging student opinion,” Rojas said. “I think within the last year, and I’m sure in the years prior, getting students’ voices to actually be actively heard, has been an ongoing kind of struggle. And so we want to ensure with this new position going in that we’re really looking for someone that represents and works for administration, but also acknowledging the fact that students play a huge role here.”
To meet this need, Rojas notes how the administration and selection committee ensured students were actively involved in the selection process, because it is one of the most important positions on campus and impacts students the most.
Schreiner finds that the reason why this position is so important is because it ultimately helps students succeed. As provost himself, he describes that the administration’s job is to ensure student success and happiness, both in and out of the classroom. He finds that Manhattan brings value to both academics, but also student’s lives as a whole.
“Everyone’s job is to make sure that we’re serving students well and getting you the skills you need to succeed in your career,” Schreiner said. “And a lot of those skills are gonna come not just from the classroom, but also to life.”
Students, faculty, staff and all members of the college community are invited and encouraged to attend the finalists’ campus visits this week. After partaking in the selection process and expressing student’s needs, Rojas is confident that whoever becomes the new VP of student life will represent student’s voices. After a candidate is selected, they will assume the role on July 1, 2022.
“We had a lot of really qualified candidates and these last four are some of the best of the best and I think the school is gonna be in great hands,” Rojas said. “I would hope there’s more of a shift towards representing student voices, and acknowledging our needs and kind of promoting that sense of shared governance that we all keep hearing about.”