Candidates for Vice Chancellor of Student Development gives presentation to students, faculty


The Appalachian Online

Francisco Delacruzhernand

Two candidates for the role of vice chancellor for student development visited Appalachian State last week to hold forums and presentations explaining why they would be a good fit for the job.

According to the search committee’s website, the vice chancellor of student development is responsible for more than 250 staff members and an annual budget of $46 million.

Trae Cotton, current vice chancellor for student affairs at Winston-Salem State University, is one of three final candidates for the position.

Cotton said his overriding priority in student development is supporting the academic mission of the university and to that end he believes it’s important to have staff who are engaged with that mission.

“See, we get to sit and have some of these fancy meetings and fancy meals and go to these different places but the boots-on-the-ground folks are the ones that are truly day to day making a difference,” Cotton said.

Cotton said he wants to find a way to innovate while still retaining the unique character of Appalachian State.

“We can’t stay where we are. I know there is this rub, right now, within this university of how do we continue to honor our heritage and history as an institution in Appalachia, and we should never, ever forget that history and heritage,” Cotton said. “But times are changing and the question in front of all of us is how do we continue to change with the times while we continue to honor this history and heritage of the institution.”

Cathy Akens, current associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students at Florida International University, held her forum and presentation on Feb. 15.

Akens said she believes accountability and transparency are incredibly important, stressing a mutually trusting relationship between administration and students.

“I want to use an inclusive and collaborative leadership,” Akens said. “There are people here who own information that’s valuable, the perspective, the ideas, the suggestions and the feedback that’s valuable to the process when someone comes in new and tries to figure how we keep moving forward.”

Jewell Ward, a senior representing the search committee, led the forum discussion and asked Akens about how she would move social justice and sustainability efforts at the university forward.

Akens said there is a need to encourage formal opportunities for dialogue and workshops around both issues and that any vice chancellor would have to create and maintain conditions for a sustainable campus.

“As vice chancellor of student development, I understand that my role is to advocate for what’s in the best interest for our students,” Akens said.

J.J. Brown, current dean of students at Appalachian State, will be visiting campus on Feb. 22-23.

Mike Mayfield, chair of the search committee, said he thought the forum went very well and that the search yielded three excellent candidates who all have very different strengths.

Leroy Wright, interim vice chancellor for student development, said that the chancellor’s cabinet had met with all three candidates and that the person selected would have to be an excellent student advocate who can foster student success both in and out of the classroom.

Bob Ellison, director of Student Health Services, said as a member of the search committee for the position he was excited to see so many people attending all of the forums and presentations held for the candidates.

Story by: Sammy Hanf, News Editor & Francisco Delacruz-Hernandez, News Reporter