Administrative Spotlight: Vice President for Student Affairs Timothy Gordon


I'Jaz Eberhardt, Vice President, News Editor

On January 16, 2018, Timothy Gordon, Ph.D. became SUNY Buffalo State’s new vice president for student affairs. Nearly a month later, he was handling a water main break in the Campbell Student Union, juggling communications with fellow members of campus administration, city officials and students to get campus life back to normal as quickly as possible.

Despite having to utilize his emergency management skills so early on, Gordon expressed that life here at Buffalo State has been good to him, thanks to the welcoming campus community.

In this Administrative Spotlight, the ‘VP with the Bow Tie’ reflects on his first year on campus, his favorite means of campus engagement, what he loves most about Buffalo and the fashion statement that helped coin his new moniker.

As vice president for student affairs, Gordon has assumed the role of overseeing various areas of campus life, including housing, athletics, and student leadership and engagement, among many others.

Gordon’s move, however, was not only one to the campus, but to the city. Before the Detroit native landed in Buffalo, he was dean of students at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, an urban institution like Buffalo State. This and similarities between his own hometown and the City of Good Neighbors have helped him get acclimated.

“I think cities like Detroit, Milwaukee and Buffalo really have a spirit to them in terms of their grassroots nature and people just really pulling together,” he said. “It’s about, how do we deal with what’s in front of us and work with what we have and continue to improve and uplift everyone? I think that’s one of the pieces that’s been similar.”

Gordon also praises Buffalo for its cultural richness and its ambitious and progressive atmosphere, noting that there’s always something to do and explore in the city. Last year, he attended his first Taste of Buffalo and he has grown especially fond of the West Side Bazaar and using Step Out Buffalo as a helpful guide to find local hotspots for food and entertainment.

In fact, exploring new things to do has helped his family transition to the city and the college as well. Gordon explained that his daughter and two sons have attended some campus events like swimming meets and basketball tournaments, and one of them has even left a thumbprint (or paw print, if you will) in the campus confections department.

“If you’ve ever had the Bengal cookie, my oldest son was the one, as we left the previous campus, that was curious about what kind of cookies we would have here, so he helped taste test those new Bengal cookies and come up with that,” he said.

As for Gordon’s bowties that have become synonymous with his title on campus? It all started with a gift from his husband.

“He works in fashion, so he really turned me on to them and they were a couple of really great gifts,” he said, “so it just kind of became a thing.”

Gordon said the bowties have been fun conversation starters to connect him with students, and he even hopes his signature accessory will connect him with local young entrepreneur Shelden Gibbs, the 12-year-old CEO and Founder of Classic Knot.

“I keep trying to reach out to him to see if we can get a special one made for me to incorporate more Buffalo State colors,” he said. “The big thing since I got here for me, with the bowtie, is adding more black and orange bowties to my collections.”

Here on campus, the highlights of Gordon’s experiences have been getting to understand the student perspective through involvement and engagement at campus events and through direct outreach, like his open office snack hour he held last fall, for example.

“The greatest privilege has been getting to know our student population,” he said. “I’ve been excited to do everything from engage with them on social media, to spend time in person at different events.”

“One of the things I really love and I’ve had the privilege of doing when I go to student events is [learning] about a talent of one of our students, a story of one of our students; that helps continue to drive and bring me to work every day.”

In addition to attending student events, like the Buffalo State NAACP Image Awards and the African Diaspora Project’s Diaspora Dialogue in February, Gordon’s past year has also consisted of working with both the campus administration and different student organizations to encourage student success.

“We’ve also been looking intentionally at the services and the structure of the division that serves students and taking the lead from them about what they want,” Gordon said. “We’ve had good relationships with USG and a number of the student orgs to direct that.”

Becoming a member of the campus community has also meant overcoming struggles and tragedies endured within the community. Gordon explained that some of the greatest challenges for him within the past year have been processing feedback from students who were not able to succeed at Buffalo State and mourning the passing of student Lillyann Cummings last October.

“I never like to hear any challenges that are presented to our students, especially if we could’ve helped worked through those, and certainly the loss of a community member is a big loss, no matter who it is,” he said.

Even these experiences, in addition to positive ones, bring together the campus community and Gordon explained this solidarity has been one of the things he has been especially proud of. He hopes to promote closeness through communication and to reassure students that he is committed to their success— “Student Affairs” is in his title, after all.

“For students, I encourage them to always feel free to approach me and stop me; share a Tweet or Instagram [post] or something to let me know some great story, or something that they’ve heard or they’re doing,” he said. “I always love any opportunity to interact with and celebrate our students. That’s probably the biggest piece in that we will continue to be the best campus we can be for our students”

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