Dr. Tim Gordon: The secrets of Student Affairs revealed


Matthew Karovski, Staff Writer

In a quest to learn about the nuts and bolts of a higher education facility, and to showcase the individuals who support Buffalo State College in rendering it one of the best colleges in the community, I decided to commence a series where I interview faculty, staff members, and administrative staff to learn more about their role on campus.

It is quite apparent the staff, faculty, and administration work extensively to provide a quality, well-rounded education to a diverse population of students. However, many students, including myself, might not necessarily know the ins and outs of specific higher education positions, with the exception of a definition derived from Google.

For the first installment of this interview series, which I intend to continue next semester, I was afforded the opportunity to speak with Dr. Timothy Gordon, the Vice President of Student Affairs at Buffalo State College, to learn about not only his role on campus, but also learn about his passion for higher education.

Gordon is genuinely a wonderful person who cares deeply about the students at the college, and Student Affairs is available to support the members of the college community.

The interview below was slightly edited for purposes of brevity and clarity.

Q: How might one define “Vice President of Student Affairs?”
A: I would say a couple things to find the role of the vice president for student affairs. Certainly, I am the executive level staff member who continues to be a champion for the student perspective and looking at the student experience, and so, I oversee all of the areas that really focus on the student experience as well as work collaboratively with my colleague, the provost who is the Vice president of Academic Affairs, who oversees the faculty. The units that I oversee include Intercollegiate Athletics, housing, Residence, Life, our dining and auxiliary programs, our Career Development Center, our health and wellness center, our student union, and student Life program are part of that portfolio.

Q: What does the position, “Vice President of Student Affairs”, typically entail in higher
A: Well, I always say that my day is not the same any given day, it is very different each day. Usually, I spend chunks of time, every day, working through individual student concerns and crises. So, whether those are things that students have raised to me, raised through the staff or have raised to the president that I’m addressing. I’m also meeting regularly with the teams, and certainly the leadership that provide the services that students receive and the support they receive. They [campus leaders] really continue to
talk about what we are hearing from students, how we are hearing from students, what Improvements can we make, what things are working well, what changes students want. Then, I also spend a good amount of time in meetings with my colleagues across the campus, whether they are other VP’s or others to talk about broader student issues: things that would cross over daily. So, again, the Provost and I work a great amount together because, obviously, the classroom and the out-of-classroom intersect, and I
spend, you know, a lot of time, I really try to spend a lot of time being out, talking with students and going to different events, helping hosts with different events. And spending time regularly with the student body president and attending student organization meetings. So, it’s a pretty extensive day but it certainly varies on any given day.

Q: What is your favorite part about being a Vice President of Student Affairs?
A: I came to Buffalo State, and I do this work because I really love working with our students. It’s such a special place in higher education. I’ve been doing this work for 26 years and I will say that Buffalo state is certainly a very special place in terms of the students, but also, I have a personal investment. Many of the students’ stories here are first generation students, you know, students from diverse backgrounds, and that’s my personal experience. And so, I really do identify with our students in a very sort of
personal way. But ultimately, it’s such a privilege to be able to come to work to really help facilitate students really getting to the goal that they came here for. So, that’s really what I would say I enjoy most about the work.

Q: What is the least favorable, if any, part about being a Vice President of Student
A: Well, I think that there are a number of times where I have to help work to support students through difficult moments. You know, we recently had a student death, and that is never easy to both support the students who are affected by that, or the family. I mean, it’s certainly something that I take as a very serious responsibility, and so, I think that’s the big part: when big, messy, difficult things happen or where you’re seeing students struggle. Many times, we’re trying to help students who’ve, you know, maybe gotten themselves into a little bit of a jam, and it’s always my hope we can get to those things
early. Sometimes, when we get there late, it can be really challenging to sort of undo a lot of the stuff that has happened to help that student be successful.

Q: Why did you choose to assume the position of Vice President of Student Affairs?
A: I realized that this whole space of how students are served on college campuses’ is actually, a discipline within education, and it’s a whole career field. So, I didn’t know that I was a very active student in student organizations. When I was an undergraduate, I worked closely with my vice president for student affairs, as a voice for students, and worked as a resident assistant. I was introduced to the idea that I could do this for a living. I always knew I wanted to do something that I felt like made a difference and gave back a bit, and that got me into the profession. As I learned more about the leadership roles and the things that you could do in the field, certainly, I aspired in my 20 some odd
year-old mind to be one of those cool people that were vice presidents that I had met and had the great opportunity to have Buffalo State offer me that moment.

Q: What would you say is the greatest challenge in working in higher education? Why?
A: Well, I think there are a couple: we’re still moving through this pandemic. And that has had a profound effect on students’ mental health: looking at what modalities we need to use to deliver education, and so it really has some ways called for us to try to be different and meet that moment. But I also think there’s a comfort in clinging to what we know, and so, I think we’re just at this really interesting crossroads about: What does that look like? What does the next iteration of what we do look like? I certainly think student mental health and wellness is a concern. Before the pandemic, it was a significant concern, and post-pandemic: it is even a greater priority. So, I think that that’s a piece that we have to continue to support because if students are going to be successful, we have to attend to the things that they need to be able to engage with their academics and achieve their degrees, and what brought them to college. And that’s really part of my job; It’s sort of a support role. If we’re doing our work right, we’re really just creating an environment where students are connecting with each other, they’re getting rich out-of-class experiences. They’re figuring out pathways and how to apply what they’re learning in the classroom. I think the other piece is that higher education is an industry, particularly state higher education, and funding has been dwindling over the years. For many institutions, the number of students eligible to come to college has fallen and will continue to fall. So, the enrollment issues will also be pressures that we face.

Q: If one day you awoke and were notified that you were to teach a class at Buffalo State
college, what course would you hope that is, and why?
A: If I could teach undergrads, I’d really want to be in one of our UNC courses. That’s really an introductory course, helping students explore either careers or just their success plan. I think, on the graduate side, I would teach my home discipline, which is HESA, the higher education program. I really do, unlike some other folks, I’ve taught in the past in those programs at other places, including the strategic planning and budgeting course. It’s not always the most exciting topic, but I think it’s really helpful for professionals to understand how the organization works at its largest levels and oftentimes budgets in those plans tell a story of the college or the institution. It’s always helpful to students to think about how those things get built, how they will be involved with them as leaders in higher education, what questions they should be asking, and what these they should be taking from what they’re discovering. There are so many components to how the institution runs to help focus on Student Success that many folks don’t always see. It just sort of happens but there’s a whole methodology behind how you develop that plan and the resources to be able to get those things moving in the right direction.

For further information, please visit the Student Affairs webpage: