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Students and staff hear from VPSL candidates

Ellen Taylor (above) answers staff and student questions. (Abbey Flentje)
Ellen Taylor (above) answers staff and student questions. (Abbey Flentje)

During the week of Dec. 1, candidates began the process of interviewing for the position of vice president for student life and dean of students.  The position is being refilled after the retirement of Eloise Stiglitz in October.

According to an email from the president’s office, the three candidates, Dr. Chicora Martin, Dr. Melynda Huskey and Dr. Ellen Taylor, were found by a search committee comprised of staff, faculty, students and administration who brought their names to the president.   Throughout the week, they were interviewed by a multitude of groups, including President DeCoudreaux and her cabinet, the trustees, the search committee and the Division of Student Life Staff.  The decision of who will ultimately be the next dean of students lies with President DeCoudreaux.  Her decision will be made by the beginning of January for the 2015 semester

In addition to their private interviews, candidates spoke at public forum meetings hosted in GSB on Dec. 1, 2 and 3.  Students, faculty and staff attended these forums and had the opportunity to ask anything of the candidates.  Questions ranged from their experience levels to how they plan to connect with students to how their current campuses are handling the issues surrounding the Ferguson decision.

Each candidate expressed their desire to be at a women’s college and to work closely with students to enrich campus life.

Taylor, the current assistant vice president for student life at the University of Washington, said that the social justice commitment of Mills was what drew her attention to the campus in the first place.

“[Something] about Mills that caught my attention was the very clearly stated, very articulated, very upfront commitment to social justice,” Taylor said.  “The fact that when you go to and you start scrolling around for ‘What is this place?’ and ‘What are they about?’ you see social justice out front.”

Martin is the assistant dean of students at the University of Oregon and frequently collaborates with students there.  When asked how she would connect with Mills students, she responded that she was committed to working with them for any of their needs.

“I have had the opportunity to work both with the administration and the students and translating to the administration what [the] students’ needs really are,” Martin said.  “I believe I don’t provide a place at the table for someone; it’s their place already, I just have to get out of the way.”

Students also asked what advice they could expect from their perspective dean of students in terms of student leadership.  Huskey, a professor of English and gender studies at Washington State University, said she had very little, but simple advice to give.

“Find what is meaningful to leadership to you and to throw yourself into that,” Huskey said.

Junior CJ Roessler attended all three public forums and asked each candidate how they would handle working with students with disabilities.  She wanted to know if disabled students would be gaining an ally in their new vice president.  All the candidates responded that they were fully committed to working with students with disabilities to affirm that they have the best possible support.

“I want to make sure that whoever we hire as vice president of student life is on our side and will go to bat for us,” Roessler said.  “There are some professors who I feel don’t have an understanding of the challenges that people with disabilities face, and the dean of student life should be supportive of the students in educating the professors.”