By CATHERINE PALMER
The Student Life Office has undergone major staffing changes in recent months, including the hiring of new employees and the creation of new positions.
Dean of Student Life Terry Martinez, who came to Hopkins in the summer of 2014, discussed the reasons behind the changes.
“Last year, one of the things I started to take a look at was the programming that we offered out of Student Life and what I thought would be the optimum programming,” Martinez said. “What that did was create for me a staffing scheme that I needed to implement, so that we could do all the work we needed to do.”
The Student Life Office encompasses several distinct branches including Student Health and Wellness; the Counseling Center; the Digital Media Center; Student Conduct; and Housing, Dining, Residential Life and Conferences.
The Student Engagement branch (previously called Campus Programming) is led by Associate Dean of Student Life Tiffany Sanchez and manages student organizations, student government, leadership programs, Greek life, orientation, JHUnions and campus-wide programming such as Spring Fair and the HOP.
Student Engagement, which students interact with frequently, has undergone a significant restructuring not only to fill vacant positions but to create new divisions designed to more effectively serve the student body.
Previously, fraternities and sororities at Hopkins were managed by a Coordinator of Greek Life and Orientation. After the sudden departure of former coordinator Rachel Drennan before the start of the 2014-2015 school year, the position was vacant, and the Greek life duties were taken over by Student Activities Director Rob Turning.
Turning’s resignation last spring left a void in the Student Life staff, with his responsibilities for the previous year covering both Greek life and management of all student organizations.
The reorganization of the Student Engagement branch, which begun last year and was executed over the summer, separates the Greek life and orientation roles into their own full-time positions and creates a Student Leadership and Involvement division that encompasses the former Student Activities Office as well as the various leadership programs.
Student Leadership and Involvement contains two new positions: Coordinator for Leadership Development, held by Travis Olson, who joined the University this summer, and Coordinator for Student Organizations, held by Clifton E. Shambry Jr., who joined the University last year in the Campus Programming Office.
The position of Director of Student Leadership and Involvement, partially analogous to Turning’s old Student Activities Director, is currently vacant.
Olson hopes in his role to help all students enhance their leadership capabilities.
“I think leadership is not something that’s innate, that we’re born with… It’s a set of skills that we develop over time, so every student is capable of becoming a better leader,” Olson said. “Some of those personality traits or backgrounds that we may not think of typically making people good leaders may actually make them fantastic leaders in a different context.”
At the start of this year, he, along with Shambry, organized the 1876 Leadership Weekend, a retreat for leaders of student organizations.
Shambry has worked recently on improving the system that governs the hundreds of registered student organizations at Hopkins, partly through revamping the Hopkins Groups site.
Martinez emphasized the importance of students developing leadership skills.
“If you talk with any employers, they will tell you there are some skills other than knowledge and expertise that people need to have in order to function effectively in the workplace,” Martinez said. “That’s communication skills, the ability to work with people who are different and have different perspectives, time management, organization… All of those skills are skills that we can work with students on developing through leadership development.”
Martinez was particularly interested in upgrading the Greek life program, and she hired Director Calvin Smith, Jr. and Assistant Director Tara Fuller to run the rebranded Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life.
“What led me to believe that we needed to put on more staffing was that the work happening around fraternities and sororities wasn’t addressing what I thought were best practices in the field of working with a Greek system,” she said.
Martinez said that she found a disconnect between the scope of Greek life on campus, which comprises about 30 percent of the undergraduate population, and the scope of Greek life in the University administration, which previously involved one part-time employee but now is run by two full-time Student Life staff.
“The goals I want to achieve with sorority and fraternity life are to make sure the students are having a really good experience, that we provide them with the leadership and organization skills they need to function effectively, and that they’re living the values they espouse,” Martinez said.
In another new full-time position, Justin Beauchamp recently completed his first Orientation Week as the Coordinator of Orientation and First Year Experience. Beauchamp joined Student Life last January.
“It just felt like a place that is very motivated, driven,” Beauchamp said. “People are passionate and that’s kind of what my style is, so I saw myself fitting in really well here.”
Martinez praised Beauchamp’s work so far this year.
“I think he did an excellent job of connecting the program with purpose and creating some new opportunities for students,” Martinez said. “The Baltimore Day is one example of that. The dinner outside of the Homewood museum is another example of that. Taking a look at the welcome on the Homewood Field was another. Again, they were some of the things that we were already doing, but we were just thinking about how to enhance them based on feedback.”
Also within the Student Life Office are two new case manager positions. The case managers, Martinez said, will help students in emergency or crisis situations or provide assistance to anyone struggling at Hopkins, whether regarding mental health, finances, discipline, social adjustment or other challenges. The case managers will act as de facto liaisons between Student Life and other departments such as the Counseling Center, Residential Life and Student Disability Services.
Martinez hopes that the recently hired Student Life staff members will be able to provide valuable new insights to the Hopkins community.
“I think fresh perspectives are really important but they’re not the only voices that need to be heard,” Martinez said. “It really is about a balance.”