Free pizza at a college has been a tried and true method of gathering students in one location on campus, but students who answered the invitation to question candidates for UCC’s next vice president of student services were more interested in being heard than eating.

VPSS candidate, Jim Pittman, shares a laugh while speaking to Melinda Benton, while Erin Ritchie, Hanna Culbertson, Danielle Haskett and Adrienne Kuykendall listen in.
Rachel Arceo / The Mainstream

The search for VPSS particularly needed student feedback. Although select students were invited to play a role in selection committees, a variety of students including athletes, TOP students and student government were also invited to take part in an informal interview-lunch with the final three VPSS candidates.

UCC has been in a lengthy process since January of filling two vice president positions: vice president of student services and vice president of academic services. For both positions, the search for the VPSS included a student-focused approach that may continue in the future. 

Amanda Cerda, ASUCC president, said, “The lunches were a huge success, so we would like to start doing something similar more regularly to encourage student feedback and involvement, not just for interviews.”

UCC President Rachel Pokrandt explained what she is searching for in both vice president positions in an email. “I am looking for institutional leaders who are committed to student success and are ready to roll up their sleeves to make us the best community college in the state,” Pokrandt said. “That means folks who are clear about the mission, kind in their approach and driven to excellence.”

Director of Accounting and Student Services Adrienne Kuykendall and co-chair, Tom Tylee, headed the VPSS selection committee.  They were tasked with interviewing candidates and submitting recommendations about them.  Their recommendations will affect one of the campus’s key positions.

“The VPSS position is going to be the services outside of academics, such as financial aid, enrollment, advising and student life.  Whereas academics is more focused on programs,” said Kuykendall.

In an effort to collect valuable student input about the final three candidates for the VPSS, the selection committee reached out to ASUCC student leadership to arrange the interview lunches. Students were invited to ask questions, provide feedback and eat pizza.

“When Tom and I were developing the schedule for the in-person interview, we felt it was highly important to involve the students because this is someone who can greatly impact the services that are offered to students and how they are offered,” Kuykendall said.

From several Zoom interviews, conducted by the selection committee, three candidates from all over the US were scheduled for on-campus interviews.  One of the three candidates dropped out before the last interview, leaving two potentials: Missy Olson and Jim Pittman.

Olson is presently UCC assistant vice president of enrollment and student services, with 22 years of experience working in a variety of positions here at UCC from adult basic skills coordinator to dean of enrollment management to assistant VP. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/public relations and a master’s degree in adult education.

Olson met with students and staff on Monday, 4 April for her final round of interviews.

VPSS candidate and present UCC Dean of Enrollment, Missy Olson, smiles for the camera as she finished sharing her enjoyment of the student feedback lunch.
Rachel Arceo / The Mainstream

Pittman is presently dean of students/chief of student affairs at Clarkson University, also a small rural college in Potsdam, New York.  He has over 20 years of experience in mental health work, even working with community mental health in Roseburg for many years.  He was also the director of counseling services and then the administrative director of the Integrated Student Health and Counseling Center at Oregon Tech.

Pittman met with students and staff on Tuesday, 5 April for his final round of interviews.

The student lunches were received well by both students and potential candidates.

Student Jennifer Ford wrote in an email, “I thought it was fun. I enjoyed getting to provide my experience as a student and ways that student services could be improved.”

Pittman wrote in an email, “Meeting with the students was one of the highlights of the visit.  I could tell that the students were eager to be heard and wanted to engage and make a difference.  It was a wonderful visit which left a very positive impression on me,” wrote Pittman.

This sentiment is shared by Olson.

“The student portion of the interview was my favorite part of the day,” Olson said.  “Everyone was truly engaged during the hour, asked great questions and provided relevant feedback on how their student journey could be improved.”

Olson also thinks, like ASUCC, that these student input sessions should continue.

“I believe having ongoing sessions with students from across campus to gather this type of feedback is important for the Student Services staff to continue.  I would also love to see students’ help be involved in enacting the solutions to the problems they see,” Olson said.

 “It has been great to have the students’ input into the candidates,” Pokrandt wrote. “Students are our customers and therefore they are the most important folks for our candidates to meet.

“Candidates say they enjoy that time the most. I actually got an email follow-up from a candidate last week that mentioned that the person is still thinking about their student lunch and how they might address student concerns if they are successful in getting the job,” Pokrandt wrote.

Both VP selection committees are compiling feedback and making their recommendations, through a process that will continue to the end of April.

 “We are hoping that all the loose ends will be tied up by the week of April 25, and we’ll be able to send out word to everyone,” Pokrandt wrote.

 “I have been thrilled by the caliber of candidates for the VP positions. Clearly, the word is out that we have the best college and most amazing students at UCC – really talented folks want to join us here,” Prokrandt wrote.

Contact me at:
UCCMainstream@yahoo.com

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