College continues the search for the next director of Student Life

Sarah Minkewicz, News Editor

The search continued for the next SUNY Buffalo State director of Student Life with a presentation on March 9 in Butler Library 210 from candidate Sarah Young on the role of student life, student success and what her plans would be if chosen for the position.

 

Young earned a Bachelor of Arts in History from Hamilton College and a Masters in Counseling Psychology from West Virginia University. She has served as the executive director of the office of student leadership and activities at Hofstra University since May 2010.

Young stated during her presentation that the key parts in Buffalo State’s overall mission are personal and professional growth of its students, faculty and staff, a lifelong passion for learning, succeeding students in a challenging world and cultural enrichment in service.

 

“I think it’s critical to consider the mission, because when you talk about retention in students at your institution, they came to your institution for a specific reason,” Young said. “So if that mission is being met, then hopefully we will be retaining students.”

 

During the presentation, Young spoke about student retention and what actions colleges and universities need to take to ensure student success. She said that her views on retention are through the implementation of student programs and how they are included in the community, such as in service-learning courses and how income impacts students in comparison with graduation rates.

 

“When you talk about student life, we do all these things,” Young said. “All of our students are all of ours all the time.”

 

She also added that she feels the faculty needs to think about how students interact on campus with the programs that are currently implemented to offer students a better college experience.

 

Young talked about how students have an expectation of college when they first arrive, and that the college is aware of this through the surveys that incoming freshmen are required to take. The surveys show the college that there’s a difference between expectation and reality for a student’s experience.

 

“Students still have this belief that they’re going to get to college and it’s going to be somewhat like ‘Animal House,’” she said with a laugh. “With a constant party all the time and somebody is going to be slip-sliding down the hallway on a piece of plastic and it’s just going to be a party all the time.”

 

Young knows that’s not the case and feels it’s Student Life’s goal to engage students and make them understand what the community is about and what the interests of them staying within the community is for. It’s the role of Student Life to help get students involved, and this will help with the retention rates on campus.

 

Melissa Ruiz, graduate assistant for the Compass Program at Buffalo State, said that the program is having difficulty with students utilizing the mentor and mentee aspect of the program and asked Young if she had any solution or ideas to solve the problem.

 

Young responded to the question and said engagement with this generation makes it more difficult to work with a mentorship program, because they need to see it as a benefit.

 

“They need to be told in the first three weeks what they are gaining out of it and what has been the assessment to show that students who complete this program succeed at a higher rate than those who don’t,” she said. “It’s a lot about the training of the mentors, because often, you think they’re going to go out and have all these great conversations and they kind of are wishy-washy when they get there.”

 

Brian D. Dubenion, assistant director of Resident Life for student success, asked Young, during the questionnaire portion of the presentation, if she could share a situation that was difficult and to describe the process she went through to complete it.

 

Young responded to the question and said she had to oversee Greek Life at Hofstra University when the assistant director of Sororities and Greek Life left, and although the university could’ve left things the way they were, Young decided to step in and make some changes.

 

“It was difficult, because students are resistant to change,” Young said. “They had access to each other’s information and it hadn’t been really tightened up like it needed to be, and so when I came in and chopped things up, we had to redefine what their roles were.”

 

She also added that if chosen as the next director of Student Life, she hopes to create a connection with the people of Buffalo State.

“I like to know people and I like to be one step away from an answer for a student,” Young said. “I believe that is what’s transformational about experiences.”

 

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