It is time for African-American Student Affairs to start battling the poor retention rates of African-American students at Northern Kentucky University, according to Dean of Students Jeffrey Waple.
Having a solid plan for how to make that happen will be a major factor in determining who will fill the vacant director position in AASA. Candidates for the position, which are selected by a search committee, are finishing interviews and Q-and-A sessions with students this week.
“As [The Northerner has] written and pointed out very appropriately, our retention rate for African-American students is not good, and for African-American males, even worse,” Waple said. “[The new AASA director] is going to have to have some idea as to how we can address that issue beyond NKU R.O.C.K.S. [the current retention program],” he continued.
The latest figures released by NKU’s Office of Institutional Research indicates that nearly 40 percent of African-American students leave the university.
“They have to understand and be able to develop a good retention effort for African-American students,” Waple said about the candidates.
Waple admitted that another problem in the office has been the amount of staff turnaround. Currently, the office holds only one full-time coordinator and an administrative assistant. Two coordinators were fired in February 2010, and only one of their positions was filled shortly before the unexpected departure of AASA Director Miya Simpson in February 2011 due to family circumstances.
Students have complained about the frequent turnaround and the vacancies in the office, Waple said. As a result, candidates for the vacant position must be committed to staying at the university for a long period of time.
“Stability is very important,” Waple said. “It’s not important to me, but it’s important to the students. You know, we’ve had too much transition. I’m looking for someone who can give us a longer position than a year or two.”
For most of the year, AASA has been utilizing staff on a part-time basis from other departments like University Housing and the Student Achievement Center, where current Interim AASA Director Willa Green works half her weekly hours.
“The candidate asked me yesterday, ‘When do you want this person to start?’, and I said, ‘January 1, 2011,’” Waple said with a laugh.
While getting someone to begin working as soon as possible is a priority for Waple, he said the starting date of any candidate is “negotiable” and would reflect their needs to finish up their current roles and move, if needed.
“I think the start time will definitely be after commencement,” Waple said.
The Dean of Students said he hopes to make an offer to a candidate by April 25. He said he thinks that students will be pleased with the announcement of a new director, even if they will not start until the summer.
“At least having someone named will be very positive,” Waple said.
However, Waple has stressed that he feels it is important that the new AASA director choose the person that will replace the coordinator position, which was left vacant since February 2010. That person will serve in a newly created assistant director position with additional job duties. Therefore, the selection process for that student-oriented position will likely be held during the summer months, when most NKU students are not on campus.
“I really don’t think we can wait to do this when all students are back,” Waple said about the search for an assistant director, adding that students have told him that they cannot wait and he responded to them with, “You’re right. We can’t wait.”
Receiving student feedback in the assistant director search, just as they are in the current search for director, remains a goal for the dean.
“I’ve already talked to a lot of student leadership from African-American students, and they are going to be here this summer, and they have networks,” Waple said.
The dean said he thinks students trust NKU to make the right choice for the assistant director position.
“I think now that students know the direction we’re going in and the positive experience we’re having with the director search, that they’re pretty trustworthy that we are going to do the right thing and keep those involved as much as we can,” he explained.
The candidates considered for the director position include one internal candidate: Interim AASA Director Willa Green. Three external candidates are also being considered: Brandi Elliott, associate director of ethnic programs and services at the University of Cincinnati; Adrian Deloach, director of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion at Radford University in Virginia; and Dannie Moore, assistant director for multicultural affairs at the University of Texas-Arlington.
“We have a fairly strong pool,” Waple said. “I’ll be curious to hear what the students have to say … that will be critical for me to hear.”
Story by Jesse Call