Changes in Student Development: A clearer focus on safety and opportunities for students

By Meaghan Menzel
Copy Editor

Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Xavier Cole sent out a memorandum in August discussing changes made within the Student Affairs office. One of these changes included the renaming and change of responsibilities for the position of director of student development. The large and very general position has now been broken down and doled out to several more specialized positions, giving each position a clearer function and focus.

“Director of student development was a very broad term for a very broad job. It was also designed at a time when Washington College was a smaller college,” said Cole. “Now we’ve grown. So the job of director of student development encompasses community service, pre-orientation, alcohol and drug education, and sexual assault prevention and education, and Greek life. That’s a lot.”

Coming to WC as the new vice president of Student Affairs gave Cole a chance to look at the previous organizational structure within Student Development.

“I saw that there were some opportunities with restructuring that position to create more of a focus on alcohol and other drug education and sexual assault prevention and education,” he said.

This led to changing the position of director of student development to the director of wellness and prevention education.

The position of director of wellness and prevention  education will be taken over by Lauren Gibson from the University of Delaware. According to Darnell Parker, assistant dean of students, the director of wellness and prevention education “will be responsible for our alcohol and drug education programs on campus and also our sexual assault prevention programs on campus.”

As part of these changes, Parker was promoted to assistant dean of students in addition to his previous potions as Title IX coordinator and director of multicultural affairs. Parker, as the Assistant Dean of Students, will work as a supervisor to the Director of Wellness and Prevention.

Cole believes that having the director of wellness and prevention education report to the Title IX coordinator is “a very good move” considering Parker is the person responsible for coordinating how the college deals with reports on sexual assault and violence against women.

“The director of wellness and prevention [education] is going to be an education role,” Cole said, and Parker’s role, “is coordinating on the investigative process.”

The creation of the director of wellness and prevention education provided an opportunity for Cole to move Greek life, community service, and pre-orientation, the responsibilities once held by the director of student development, to the duties of the director of student activities Heather Morris.

“We want you to have good co-curricular opportunities outside of the classroom for recreation but also for socialization and opportunities for leadership,” Cole said. “Heather actually has some previous experience with Greek life and community service in her resume.”

For Greek life, Morris will meet with the chapter presidents and advise them in matters such as recruitment and event planning.

“Greek life isn’t just the events they have on campus,” she said. “So their leadership structures and their leadership training they all do in each individual organization. I just work with them to make sure that they’re getting the best out of their organization.”

Morris said, “I plan all the logistics for the seven programs that we run—registration, notification of placement, and really the day to day activities for all the programs.”

With community service, Morris will help students become aware of opportunities and help with planning. Greek life and community service go hand-in-hand, so it made sense to Cole to place them under the same director.

Morris has a lot of other jobs on her plate. She oversees the Student Events Board, serves as a contact for student clubs and organizations when they want to plan events on campus, works with the Birthday-Ball planning committee, and even has an intern staff. Greek life, community service, and pre-orientation were put on top of her current job.

“And we’re already a small staff and small offices doing a lot of good work,” Cole said, “So we made an assistant director of student activities so she [Kellyanne Ford] could help Heather in all of her functions across the board… so the student experience wouldn’t suffer.”

Morris said, “I’m really excited [about the new assistant]. I think it’s going to allow us to be able to think creatively about new programs that we can do and be working ahead instead of playing catch-up.”

Overall, Cole feels very positive about the changes made and how they will benefit the school.

“I believe by being proactive in pointing resources toward alcohol and other drug education and sexual assault and misconduct education puts Washington College ahead of the curve and ahead of many schools who are having numerous issues nationally around sexual assault and investigation,” said Cole. “So it puts us in a very good place.”

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