Shivers embraces Hawkeye life in first year as UI vice president for Student Life


Lily Smith

VP for Student Life Melissa Shivers speaks in an interview with The Daily Iowan in the IMU on Friday, May 4, 2018. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)

It’s not just blood, but students that run through Melissa Shivers’ veins, University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld says.

The characterization is rather fitting for Shivers, the UI vice president for Student Life. At Catlett Residence Hall or elsewhere around campus, it’s common to find her with students as often as she can be.

RELATED: New UI vice president for Student Life talks success, diversity, safety

Much has changed since Shivers’ early days in this position — namely, Basta has been bumped down a notch as her favorite restaurant and Heirloom has taken its place. But the warm, sunny weather recently brings the near-conclusion of the UI administrator’s first year on campus full circle to when she assumed her new role on June 30, 2017.

“I remember being very eager and excited for the students to get to campus so I could really learn about the culture and the pace,” Shivers said. “I was excited about the energy that I knew would happen once students arrived.”

University of Iowa VP for Student Life Melissa Shivers speaks during the grand opening ceremony for Elizabeth Catlett hall on Friday, July 28, 2017. (Joseph Cress/The Daily Iowan)

And she hasn’t been disappointed in her first nine months on the job. Shivers said people on campus understand the role the Division of Student Life plays in the student experience both inside and outside of class and want to continue to be partners with the division.

Regularly engaging with student organizations, fraternities and sororities, and the staff in the Division of Student Life have made her feel fortunate every day to be at the UI and serving in this role, she said.

“I have loved the opportunity to connect with our student community, to learn about the things that you all are passionate about, the areas of opportunity that still exist,” she said. “But people are willing and committed to doing the hard work to be able to help continue to move agendas along and things of import along.”

RELATED: Womxn of Colour Network hosts VP for Student Life Shivers

“Listen. Understand. Act” is Shivers’ mantra. She said following it closely — listening to multiple people to fully understand issues before determining how to respond — has continued to be an integral part of her approach to the job throughout her first year.

“The one day that you think you know everything about a particular topic, you go to another meeting and realize, perhaps you didn’t know as much as you thought you did,” she said. “… If I spend the entire meeting talking, then I haven’t had an opportunity to listen, to be able to think strategically and intentionally in those ways.”

RELATED: University of Iowa VP for Student Life converses about being a woman in leadership

While Shivers’ roots are in the South and she loves opportunities to spend time with her family, she said she doesn’t feel a nagging sense of homesickness thanks to the welcoming community in Iowa.

“Georgia’s where my family is, so of course I miss them tremendously,” she said. “But it’s been nice, quite frankly, to be so welcomed and included in this community that it’s allowed me to have the time to spend here and really get invested and learn about the things that make Iowa City unique and special, and really the state of Iowa.”

Shivers’ first year

· In Shivers’ first year, the cultural centers have seen increased funding and more programming, and the UI conducted its second sexual misconduct campus-climate survey

· She will soon assume the role of interim chief diversity officer, working to ensure no gaps are left between the departure of Lena Hill and the arrival of a new hire

· One of Shivers’ major goals is to continue working with the Center for Advancement to help support the work of her staff in the Division of Student Life

Facebook Comments