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Student Affairs VP search closes in on candidates

4 listening sessions scheduled for finalists to be next VP for Student Affairs

Editor’s Note: This record has been updated to include quotes from Sean Frazier, NIU Athletic Director and chair of the search committee.
Updated April 1, 2022

The search for NIU’s next Vice President of Student Affairs begins Monday as NIU invites Gayle Ward from Rush University as the first interviewee in the weeks-long process.

Ward currently serves as the Vice Provost Student Affairs at Rush University, a private research university in Chicago. He has held the position since 2019.

Ward began his stint at Rush University in 2011 as Associate Provost Student Affairs before being promoted to Senior Associate Provost Educational Affairs in 2016. His responsibilities include overseeing a multi-million academic support operations budget and managing day-to-day operations.

His higher education administrative experience began in 1994 at the University of Illinois at Chicago, assuming the role of recruitment and admission coordinator. Ward’s later jobs working for DePaul University and City Colleges of Chicago eventually led him to his current institution at Rush.

Ward’s academic pursuits have sent him to three different universities within the state of Illinois. Ward graduated from Western Illinois University in Macomb with a bachelor’s degree and later a master of arts from UIC. He most recently earned a Juris Doctorate at DePaul.

His decorated professional career is accompanied by a share of awards and accolades. His most recent award came in 2020 after being honored with the Paula J. Brown Service Award for Diversity Mentoring.

March 30, 2022

DeKALB— The search for the next Vice President of Student Affairs has reached a tipping point, as the Provost’s office announced forums for four potential candidates to fill the top chair in student affairs.

Currently, Charlie Fey is the interim vice president for Student Affairs, but his contract expires on May 31 while the search for a permanent replacement is ongoing.

The four candidate sessions will take place in-person and via Zoom, but those attending over Zoom will not have the opportunity to ask questions. All sessions will last one hour and each attendee is encouraged each to fill out an evaluation form of the candidate.

The first session is set to take place at 3:30 pm Monday in the Holmes Student Center.

Each candidate’s name will be released 48 hours prior to their scheduled session on campus.

Lengthy process for a top campus position

The process to find the next top dog in Student Affairs did not happen overnight. NIU comprised a search committee of 15 people that represented multiple faces of campus from the Provosts office, SGA, undergraduate students and even the athletics community.

“I would say it was a collaborative process,” Sean Frazier, NIU Athletics Director and search committee chair said. “We went through, painstakingly, of really trying to flesh out the qualities necessary for a Vice President of Student Affairs.”

The qualities the committee focused on consist of having a balance between NIU’s academic mission, outside of class co-curriculars and creating an environment for students to succeed on a college campus, Fraizer said.

The total number of applicants is not known, but Frazier said the committee was aided by the search firm Parker and Associates, 12 candidates were debated among the committee and of the 12, four were named finalists.

Student voice at the table

While the committee consisted of multiple entities around campus, students had representation in the process. The committee had one undergraduate, one graduate student and outgoing SGA President Devlin Collins on the search team. These decisions helped keep key stakeholders’ voices in the minds of those making this decision.

“The key priorities, at least from my perspective, was being student-centered and understanding that the external environment around the university was extremely important,” Frazier said.

Fraizer said having those “frontline practitioners” who deal directly with students and are able to articulate students’ needs, shape the student experience and create a community were important to the process and widdling the list down to four finalists.

Future of Greek Life push

As Fey prepares to exit stage-left, some such as the revitalization of greek life on campus still have questions surrounding of what’s to come and will the re-establishment of greek life remains a priority for a new Student Affairs VP.

“Absolutely,” Fraizer said. “We know we have to do something there. There’s a number of different revitalization are happening between the campus and the community is it related to Annie Glidden North project and all the other things going on with the location.”

The Annie Glidden North neighborhood is where a majority of fraternity and sorority houses are located. Fraizer and the committee feel that focus on Greek Life was a big factor in making selections to get candidates to campus.

“The candidates that made it to campus, I believe answered those particular questions,” Fraizer said. “Now, they have to go through the gauntlet of answering with the various groups that have a specific agenda.”

What’s next for the candidates

During their time on campus, candidates will not just meet with community members in an open forum. Candidates will meet with various stakeholders over a day and a half visit for them to understand NIU and also for the community to understand them.

Meetings include roundtables with President Freeman’s senior cabinet, SGA leaders and time with current Student Affairs management, according to the search committee’s published schedule.

After all candidates have made it to campus, the search committee will reconvene, weigh all feedback given and then present that information to NIU Provost Beth Ingram, who will make the final hiring decision, according to Frazier.

This story is ongoing and the Northern Star will continue to update it when more information becomes available.

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