VP for Student Life hopefuls lay out visions

The four candidates for the position of vice president for Student Life emphasized opportunity to advocate for students in a series of public forums.


The Daily Iowan; Photos by Lily

Vice President for Student Life candidate Melissa Shivers poses for a portrait on Monday, May 1, 2017. Shivers is one of four candidates for the upcoming VP for Student Life position. (The Daily Iowan/Lily Smith)

A new leader for the Division of Student Life is one step closer to being named.

The candidates for vice president for Student Life visited campus throughout the week to discuss their thoughts on the position and respond to the University of Iowa community’s questions.

The search, cochaired by Kenneth Brown, professor and associate dean of Undergraduate Programs in the Tippie College of Business, and Laura McLeran, senior adviser to the president and associate vice president for External Relations, began in January after current UI Vice President for Student Life Tom Rocklin announced in December 2016 his plans to retire in July.

Lon Moeller presents his qualifications and discusses the changes he would make as a the new Vice President of Student Life during the public forum in the Pappajohn Business Building in Iowa City, Iowa on Wednesday, May 3, 2017. (The Daily Iowan/Anthony Vazquez)

Melissa Shivers, associate vice chancellor for Student Life and dean of students at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, met with the public in the first forum on Monday. She told The Daily Iowan she believes her 20 years of experience working in higher-education positions her well to appropriately support the campus community in the Division of Student Life.

“The opportunity at the University of Iowa to continue focusing on student health and safety, also leadership development and multicultural competencies, all really spoke to me as a higher-[education] practitioner,” she said. “I believe that the work continues to be important, and I appreciate the emphasis placed on those efforts at the University of Iowa, as they are all personal values to me.”

The second candidate, Timothy Alvarez, the vice president for Student Affairs at North Dakota State University, spoke on Tuesday. Brown said the search committee was impressed with the way Alvarez has responded to challenges brought on by budget cuts at that university.

The UI is also facing budget cuts, because the state Legislature reduced funding for the UI by $9.2 million as

Vice President for Student Life candidate Timothy A. Alvarez speaks in the Pappajohn Business Building on Tuesday, May 2 2017. Alvarez is one of the four candidates for the upcoming VP for Student Life position. (The Daily Iowan/Osama Khalid)

the result of a state budget shortfall of $131 million.

Alvarez said he wants to foster an atmosphere in which it is acceptable to make mistakes as long as it is viewed as something to learn from, and to continually evaluate whether current processes are effective.

“That’s my job, is to ask a lot of questions about what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, is it working,” Alvarez said. “… I want us to be as good as we can be, but I think in order to do that, we need to prioritize.”

VP candidate, Salvador Mena

The third candidate, Lon Moeller, the UI associate provost for Undergraduate Education and dean of the University College, touted his years of experience at the UI as a student, professor, and in various administrative roles at a Wednesday forum. He said he hopes to replicate his experience at the UI to bolster student success.

“I have a love for the University of Iowa,” he said. “The University of Iowa changed me. I owe everything in my professional life to what I learned here. Iowa to me is not a steppingstone; it’s not a next step for a next job. It is a place I want to be and will be, and having the opportunity of a lifetime — which is what I view this position to be — is exciting.”
The final candidate, Salvador Mena, associate vice chancellor for Student Affairs at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, visited campus Thursday and discussed his experience working in student affairs and understanding of the aspects of a Division of Student Life, and, like Moeller, described his plans to encourage student success.

“We come together to learn together around issues,” he said. “That means collaboration … We come together to learn to think about what it means for student success, another tradition.”