Dr. Vincent Bowhay
Region IV-W Director-Elect
Vice President for Student Affairs
Independence Community College
These are vexing times for our country, higher education, and the NASPA IV-West region. Americans already questioned the value of higher education before the COVID-19 pandemic. With growing costs associated with attaining a college degree, a mountain of student loan debt, and increased stress during a pandemic, it often falls on Student Affairs to show the “value add” of the college experience. A college degree continues to be of high value, but our fellow citizens and our communities are losing confidence in higher education’s ability to evolve.
Recently, opinion articles have even begun to surface from higher education leaders that colleges and universities should divest in non-academic activities further to support a more European model of higher education. That is why our region needs a leader who can guide a fundamental rethinking of the role our region can play in protecting and preparing our practitioners for leadership in an unprecedented time. If elected to the Regional Director-Elect’s role, I will invest my time in advocating for resources to re-imagine and re-invest in our colleagues and our profession.
Accessibility. We must continue to find ways to make professional development even more affordable during a time of mass budget destabilization. While institutions rethink expenditures and slash professional development, our region can continue to produce thought-leadership that increases the value members get out of their professional development dollars. NASPA is not just for the few who have thousands of dollars in professional development monies to spend. This idea can be realized in our region in a wide variety of ways, including by our commitment to continue to create opportunities to connect to professional development opportunities virtually beyond the pandemic lifecycle. If elected, I will marshal the considerable talent of the region to identify and address other barriers you encounter in your membership experience.
Mentorship. We must create more opportunities for our professionals to engage with mentors within the field. While we have done a great job launching programs designed to encourage and assist new professionals, it is now time to create opportunities and mentorship tracks for those looking to advance their career or have a safe place for discussions. If elected, I would want to examine the needs of our region through assessment and taskforces designed to further conversations around diversity, equity, inclusion, and career progression. If we better understand the unique needs of our members, the systematic barriers they encounter, and connect them to others who can help them succeed – our region will be blessed with even more unstoppable leaders.
You. The challenges of job loss, budget constriction, and “other duties as assigned” are among the most significant faced by our field in history. This pandemic has been unevenly felt on college campuses nationwide, with many front-line student affairs professionals (residence life, campus activities, student conduct, advisors, etc.) often responding first during emergencies, without the ability to say no. As our region reimagines its future, I want it to be one that is open and encouraging to members of all backgrounds and career levels. You are our most valuable resource! You are irreplaceable. I promise to never forget that and to never let you forget that either.
None of these objectives will be easy to achieve and may even require some radical rethinking of the role NASPA plays in our day-to-day lives as practitioners. We are all called to serve, and if you choose to elect me, I promise to dedicate myself to making IV-West a region that works for you.