University leaders host Q&A on realignment of Student Affairs, Academic Affairs

University leadership hosted a Q&A session Nov. 2 to answer questions from the UIC community about the realignment of Student Affairs and Academic Affairs, which aims to support UIC’s student success mission.

UIC community members asked questions in person during the event at Student Center East and had the opportunity to submit questions and watch virtually.

Panelists included Interim Chancellor Javier Reyes; Karen Colley, acting provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs; Rob Dixon, interim vice chancellor and vice provost for student affairs; Dan Williams, associate vice chancellor for business services; Fred McCall, associate vice chancellor for student engagement and interim dean of students; Raphael Florestal-Kevelier, assistant vice chancellor for student health and wellness; Josephine Volpe, associate vice provost for advising development; Kiely Fletcher, associate vice provost for enrollment management; and Aisha El-Amin, associate vice provost for student success and belonging.

Reyes shared the history of the realignment process, which began under the leadership of Rex Tolliver, former vice chancellor for student affairs. The realignment, which officially took effect Oct. 16, creates the new position of vice chancellor and vice provost for student affairs to oversee student affairs, advising, enrollment management and student success initiatives. Dixon is serving in the interim position, and a search will take place after UIC’s next chancellor is named.

“We really had our student life cycle really split between four great leaders that had incredible goals and had incredible plans, but they were not necessarily aligning in how they were getting there,” Reyes said. “The alignment of the mission and structure was what we needed to work on.”

Reyes acknowledged that the university needs to understand and address areas where the university has reached a plateau or has gaps in enrollment, such as African American enrollment and retention of our first-year students and freshmen.

Reyes presented organizational charts that show new reporting lines, and Dixon stressed that all current staff members were retained in the realignment process. 

Colley said the realignment will foster collaboration among Student Affairs and Academic Affairs to better support UIC students.

“The realignment will remove structural barriers that exist right now and allow increased collaboration across all of student services to ensure that student concerns are navigated in a holistic manner with both professionals from Student Affairs and Academic Affairs at the table,” she said. “It will also allow Student Affairs and Academic Affairs to speak as one and to act as a group to identify and address challenges to student success.”

The realignment will support students in many ways, Colley said. For example, it will allow for better coordination between student success units and enrollment services in UIC’s recruitment efforts.

“We’ll be able to better leverage the community in connections and talents in the leadership of the student success units to enhance recruitment efforts together with the recruiters from enrollment services,” she said.

Colley said other coordinated efforts created by the realignment include:

  • Bringing together financial aid, admissions and recruitment professionals to create funding packages for admissions offers rather than sending aid packages only to admitted students.
  • Enhancing proactive advising strategies to support student success, engagement and well-being.
  • Ensuring that students are aware of health and wellness resources available to them at UIC as early as during the recruitment process.
  • Identifying services to support historically underrepresented student populations.

Over the next 12 to 18 months, Reyes said, university leadership will target efforts to increase student engagement for all students. 

“Now we have an alignment at the leadership that can do that,” Reyes said.

A video of the Q&A session can be viewed online. Additional questions that were not addressed during the session are answered below.

Q: What general student affairs support and accommodations can be offered to students in regional campuses (i.e. Rockford and Peoria)?   

A: Each year the Student Fee Advisory Committee, through the student fee setting process makes recommendations for support of the UIC off-site campuses (Rockford, Peoria, and Quad Cities).  For this fiscal year (FY 2023) it is projected that the off-site campuses would receive more than $1.7 million in student fee support. 

Q: How will/should the realignment impact committee structure at the college and departmental levels?   

A: There aren’t plans to change the existence of campus-level committees such as Dean’s Council, Committee of Associate and Assistant Deans for Student and Academic Affairs (CAAD), etc. where colleges make up the membership. This realignment does provide opportunity for more communication with student affairs areas but would not largely change those internal structures in the colleges.

Q: How will this realignment of Student Affairs and Academic Affairs impact student affairs or academic advising units that occur within the colleges, where reporting lines are internal to the college?  

A: The realignment will not impact reporting lines internal to the college. Student Affairs will continue to collaborate with college-specific Student Affairs/Advising on orientation, addressing student concerns, and university-wide initiatives focused on student success. For academic advising units and student affairs units within the colleges, reporting lines will not be changing, which means that our plans for advising development are to increase our partnership and the intention is to have as much positive impact as possible while we know that there will be challenges, one of the commitments advising development is making is to work collaboratively with the college officers to understand the areas that are working best, the pain points, and where we can work to make changes that will engender positive outcomes. 

Q: When students feel most vulnerable and need support services to be inviting and accessible, what are succinct ways to make them available for immediate use? How can we enhance the use of our social media, infographics, and other prominent ways to make supports visible?  

A: There are a variety of supports available for students experiencing situations that require emergency intervention. In addition to the direct support resources (e.g. Counseling Centers, Wellness Center/Pop-up food pantry, Dean of Students office, UIC Police Department, Housing, etc.), there are bodies of colleagues including the Student Care Team and Student Response Team that convene to coordinate assistance for students navigating complex issues (e.g. housing, food, financial challenges, etc.) leveraging the vast array of supports available within UIC and the broader Chicago community. With the realignment, there are opportunities to streamline these support structures, expand community capacity (particularly among our student-facing colleagues), to provide immediate support and connect students to resources available when they need them. It is also important to note that the needed supports and the institutional responses vary based on each student’s situation and context, and warrant intentional collaboration for the best possible outcomes. 

Q: You mentioned that this realignment will allow for Academic Affairs and Student Affairs to come together with one voice. What has been created to ensure there is intentional staff engagement with both areas to blend the variety of cultures that exist to be more cohesive?

A: Meetings with Student Affairs leadership spanning both former areas will be held consistently.  Leaders at the director level will gather among colleagues in traditionally formulated organizations to discuss the realignment. Then in early January, all realigned student affairs directors will gather for a meet and greet and brainstorming session to look for new collaborations. Events to bring all staff together will continue.  

Q: Are there discussions about how to strategically re-organize office spaces to support the goal of more collaboration across units? 

A: Staff to support Student Success and Belonging will be moving into Student Services Building.  Moving office spaces is an interesting idea to foster collaboration.  In upcoming meetings, this idea could be raised and further examined.

Q: How will we know if this realignment is working? 

A: Metrics for success, such as coordination of financial aid awards, or event/service collaboration, will need to emerge from the units. Student Affairs teams are formulating plans and metrics, with input from directors and staff, which will be shared with the campus in the spring.

Q: I am thrilled to hear the recurring theme of collaboration between professional staff and programs. This highlights how important staff, possibly increased staff, is to all being discussed. Education is a labor-intensive effort! How will the efforts of the campus Human Resources area and the Student Affairs Human Resources area be supported and aligned for expedient and effective search and hire processes?  

A: Within the last four months, campus Human Resources has implemented two new computer programs that will aid in making the search and hiring process more efficient. Student Affairs Human Resources has operated for over six months with several vacancies including the executive director position. As of this writing, the Student Affairs Executive Director has been hired. The next step will be to hire the Senior Human Resources position and add additional staff to support the student employment and civil service hiring processes. 

Q: I think this realignment is an opportunity to describe better what each of the student-facing offices do to support student engagement, retention and well-being to eliminate confusion about overlap and increase collaboration. Are there strategies to increase education about each other?  

A: Yes. There will be various opportunities to increase awareness through Student Affairs director’s meetings and other unit meetings to better understand functions and shared responsibilities.


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