Kandy Salas and Denise Hayes, finalists for the Dean of Students/Vice President of Student Affairs position at Scripps, met with students and senior staff recently to talk about their experiences and what they would plan to do as a Dean and senior administrator at Scripps. Here is a quick and easy summary of their qualifications, goals, and responses to student questions
Her background: Salas is currently a lecturer at California State University, Fullerton, where she has worked for 24 years, first as the Officer of Student Life and eventually working her way up to the Dean of Students and the Associate Vice President for Student Affairs. She is a first generation college student who earned her bachelor’s in English and minor in women’s studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, her master’s in counseling and human development with a specialization in student personnel services at Minnesota State University, Moorhead, and her Ph.D. in education from Claremont Graduate University. Salas has varied experience working with student leaders and student clubs and organizations, as well as running student orientations and working with undocumented students. She also has experience working with advocacy for survivors of sexual assault, from Title IX work to work in first-responder situations.
Her goals as DOS/VPSA:
Salas said that she received consistent advice from the senior staff when she met with them. She gathered, she said, that the team is still healing from Dean Bekki Lee’s passing and that working with the senior officers as a group will be particularly important.
She also said that she felt that Scripps is in transition as it attempts to realize its goals at diversity and inclusivity. She said that she wants Scripps to go beyond merely diversity, but to push for cultural competence, which deals with issues of inclusion to work on big picture diversity on campus. She said that it cannot only be groups and people who are historically “new” to college campuses who are having these conversations—it must constantly be a campus-wide discussion. She said that reaching a critical mass is only the beginning, and after that is when the difficult work begins. She said, however, that she is passionate about and dedicated to this work.
She also said that part of her work as Scripps’ DOS/VPSA would include getting to know students very well, particularly student leaders. She said that when issues arose, she wanted to help students learn how to address problems that arise, rather than merely solving problems on their behalf.
Her responses to student questions:
Students’ questions at the evening event on March 26 ranged from her working styles to the direction she’d like to take with the department if hired. She said that when it comes to her colleagues, she feels she works best with people who are willing to listen and compromise. Regarding students, she said that she is first and foremost an educator, so her ultimate goal is to make sure that students are learning, but that she also feels it’s important for students’ ideas to be heard and implemented. When it comes to heated and difficult discussions, she said she’s learned to have those conversations but be able to walk away and feel peace about the exchange.
Salas followed up on students’ questions with a question of her own, asking students for advice regarding what they would like to see on campus. Students said that the senior staff and the DOS/SARLO offices could be more cohesive, and that it would be important for the department to work with students and put students’ concerns and needs ahead of bureaucratic concerns. They also said that concerns need to be addressed with concrete and transparent action—that students should always know what action is being taken and how it is being implemented. Students also said that DOS should be proactive about inserting itself into spaces other than its own office to increase transparency and availability to students.
Hayes has worked for the Claremont University Consortium (CUC) as its director of student health and counseling for nine years. She is a counseling psychologist who has also done work in organizational communications and leadership and management, which made her well-suited for a director position at CUC. She is currently teaching a course at CGU; Hayes said she felt compelled to get back into the classroom and to apply for the DOS/VPSA position at Scripps because she misses working with students directly. Hayes said she applied to work at Scripps because her older sister and daughter both attended women’s colleges, and that they gained so much confidence during their years there.
Hayes has also written scholarship and done work on women’s leadership, and black women’s leadership in particular. Her dissertation was on single mothers that are currently in schools; Hayes herself was a divorced mother with young children when she went back for her master’s degree. She worked to apply existing theories regarding leadership to the experiences of black women who are leaders in higher education. For example, some theories suggest that success does not come from hard work alone, but comes from willingness to take risks, from the ability to energize oneself during stressful and trying times, and from developing relationships with mentors and superiors who will put their credibility on the line to put in a word for you. She said that these theories are often applied across the board, but that African American women had never been asked about whether it applies to them. Her interest and research with women’s professional development and leadership informed her choice to apply to work at Scripps.
Her goals as DOS/VPSA:
Hayes said that a goal for her as DOS/VSPA would be to strengthen the community between faculty affairs and student affairs to create a stronger community to better support students. She also said that she thinks student affairs play a bigger role in leadership development, diversity discussion, mentoring and coaching, and programming, rather than only a space to go during crises. She said that she understood that Dean Lee, who passed away suddenly last fall, was getting a strategic plan started, and that Nathalie Rachlin, interim vice president of student affairs, is continuing that work, and that she, Hayes, hopes to solidify a plan. She said such a plan would create a consistent message coming from student affairs that it was a place that was very student-oriented, and that the student affairs staff could become closer to students, in such away, said Hayes, that they could provide references and career- and life-related mentoring.
Hayes said that though much of her research has focused on African American women, as a DOS she would be there for all women at Scripps.
Her responses to student questions:
Hayes said that in her interactions with students at the CUC, her style is to give students whatever facts she can disclose about a situation, and to share whatever realities (e.g. regarding the budget or other processes) candidly with students so that it’s always very clear where she’s coming from. For example, she said, some people have asked her whether she would look into hiring a counselor who would work exclusively at Scripps to supplement mental health care available at Monsour. She responded that if something is added to the budget, something else has to be taken away, and that would have to be worked out accordingly.
In response to a question about her working style, she said she prefers working with relationship-oriented people who are open to transparent conversation, but acknowledged that every office needs detail-oriented, “number crunching” people.
When asked how long she planned to stay at Scripps, she said probably five to seven years, or until she retires.
When a student asked to know more about her prospective direction for the office, Hayes reiterated that she wants to strengthen the relationship between academic affairs and student affairs. She said that faculty are often the most valued, respected members of an institution because they are so close to students—in the way doctors are the most respected people at a hospital, Hayes said. But she wants her staff to also feel valued, and be able to better articulate how helpful they are to students in order to expand students’ perceptions of what a student affairs office is and what it can offer. Hayes said she also wants to build her staff’s ability to support each other, and to develop a strategic plan with a clearer direction and work on branding the student affairs office as a place that can support students in a broader way.
Hayes said, that in a perfect world in which she had unlimited funds, she would love to create a living-learning environment, perhaps incorporating faculty into the existing language halls, but also create themed housing if locations became available. Realistically, she said, she would focus on ensuring that existing technology is up to date, and figure out what resources could be reallocated elsewhere. She said that ultimately, her goal would be to make Scripps’ student affairs to be somewhere other colleges would look up to.
She also added that she understood that Dean Lee’s open hours were well received by students, and would likely seek to continue such a program. Furthermore, she emphasized that everyone’s voices need to be heard, noting that faculty sometimes have a liberty of speech that administrators do not, and that students who don’t feel as strongly about diversity also need a place to talk about it. Hayes emphasized that she wanted to be proactive so that things would never get to the point where students have to protest, even though student protest can be very healthy.
A student noted that student affairs staff often wear many hats and can’t always address students’ needs adequately because of their myriad duties, and queried how Hayes would address this problem. Hayes responded that she would work on strategic planning and prioritize by identifying DOS/SA’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT). Based on what she’d seen, she suggested that the office’s strong point was its commitment to students and student affairs, while a present weakness was the instability of transitions in leadership. She felt that a big opportunity was that to strengthen the relationship between academic and student affairs. A threat, she said, was the problem of sexual assault on the campuses affects Scripps disproportionately. She also noted that the rising cost of education is a threat, and hopes that increasing Scripps’ endowment will enable more students to come to Scripps.
Hayes said the first thing she would do if hired was to get to know her staff, and then hold open forums to get to know students, and would answer whatever questions she knew the answers to. She would also hope to spend very little time in her office, instead meeting with groups around campus, eating in Malott, getting to know SAS, and attending any student meetings she’s invited to. She also envisions hosting get-togethers with students at the DOS house if she is chosen for the position.
Hayes was also asked about her hobbies outside of her work in student affairs, and she mentioned a love for pilates, walking, and trying new things (she recently went kayaking for the first time, tried introductory ballet, and braved a fear of roller coasters).
Students also asked what she thought it meant for a women’s college to honor all expressions of femininity. In order to answer such a question, the college needs to think critically about its identity and its history and legacy as a women’s college, including, perhaps, honoring the philosophy of single-gender education, she replied.
A student asked whether transwomen ought to be included in what it means to honor all expressions of femininity at Scripps. Hayes said that she wasn’t sure and didn’t want to make a decision on her own, and reiterated her point that answering such a question would require conversations about Scripps’ identity and mission as a women’s college, and how a women’s college should determine what is a woman and what is female.
Responding to a question about whether she thought there are additional difficulties when working at a women’s college versus a coed school, Hayes said that she couldn’t think of any. She said there are differences and similarities between the two types of institutions, but that there aren’t any difficulties inherent in working at a women’s college.
She also noted that, when it comes to implementing new policy or programs, the need should come from students, rather than from the top down. She stated that she intends to provide training and professional development for her staff so that students will feel safe around all of them. Administrators need to be available, because it is better for students to come to the administrators with concerns, so that students can bring their issues forward and the administration does not have to go to students wondering if something is a problem. She also emphasized that diversity should not be only a topic of generic discussion—for example, not merely having a forum of which diversity is the focus, but making it a part of her conversations with students consistently.
Finalists’ resumes can be viewed on the Scripps portal under the “Student” tab on the far right side of the page.