New VP seeks to engage with students

Tori Lentz, Reporter

If there’s one thing Kim Turner wants to excel in this semester as the interim vice president for student affairs and dean of students, it’s student engagement.

Turner, the former assistant vice president for student success and business operations, doesn’t come from a traditional student affairs background. Before the assistant vice president position, Turner was the director of administration- working with the budget and planning.

She was a faculty member eight years ago at Gateway Community and Technical College, the place where she said she felt most engaged.

“I went from having daily interaction with students to rarely having interaction with students, and so this is one of my goals this year,” Turner said. “The goal of the day-to-day activity like Dean Waple had so that students know who I am and I know who they are.”

Organizing events like Welcome Week will also create genuine engagement, according to Turner. She wants campus to be more vibrant- engaging students more frequently with programs and activities in the evenings and on weekends.

President Geoffrey Mearns said he saw signs of student engagement increase dramatically in just the first week of school.

“The level of student participation and the level of new student engagement was higher than I’ve ever seen on campus before,” Mearns said. “There were at least 2,000 students at the convocation and in the first three years I was here there were probably only a few hundred.”

In addition to keeping levels of student engagement high, Turner wants to support other aspects of student affairs, such as housing and offering services that support student success.

According to Ann James, senior associate dean of students and director of conduct, rights and advocacy, former Dean of Students Dean Waple’s office still offers almost all of the same services, even after the merging of his position with the vice president of student affairs to create Turner’s current position. The Norse violence prevention program and all things related to student advocacy have remained there.

“What I don’t want is students to come here, see the sign on the door and say, ‘Oh this isn’t the dean of students’ office anymore, this must not be where I’m supposed to go,’” James said. “‘I wish we could put a sign on the door that says, ‘Need help? Come in here.’”

Mearns believes student affairs is capable of helping students like never before.

“We hope that the services that we provide to the students are even better than before, so that even with the reorganization, there may be different titles and there may be different people in some of the offices, but we believe our commitment to the students will be even better,” Mearns said.

He said the division is in good hands with Turner.

“She has a breadth of knowledge in student affairs,” Mearns said. “She has a very quiet but determined demeanor, and from what I’ve been able to see is a very mature and disciplined approach when problems arise.”

James said she appreciates Turner’s way of managing the different departments.

“She’s a great mentor to me, she’s a great supervisor,” James said. “What i love about her is that she kind of recognizes when I’m the expert in an area and then she sort of just lets me do it. She’s always there as a resource, but she doesn’t micro-manage at all.”

Turner is grateful for the support she’s received in the short time she’s been in her new role.

“It’s not like a job, it’s like a family,” Turner said. “I have parents who will call and come to me with questions, students will call, and the staff and the faculty– everyone supports one another and it’s just been an amazing experience.”