Second UI VP for Student Life finalist Sarah Hansen emphasizes inclusion, relationship-building

In her presentation for Vice President for Student Life, UI Manager of Strategic Programs in the Office of the Provost Sarah Hansen noted the importance of inclusivity and experience among students, faculty, and staff. Hansen is the second finalist for the position.


Ryan Adams

Candidate for the role of Vice President of Student Life Sarah Hansen speaks during a forum at the IMU on Feb. 4, 2020. Hansen graduated from the University of Iowa with a Bachelor of Arts in Education and a Masters in Arts in Sociology.

Annie Fitzpatrick, News Reporter

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At the second public forum in the search for a new Vice President for Student Life, finalist Sarah Hansen promised to fully commit to students in terms of learning opportunities, relationship building, and inclusion, if selected.

University of Iowa students, staff, and faculty gathered in the IMU Room 166 on Tuesday to hear Hansen discuss the importance of inclusion within the student community, which she said she understands through her current role as manager of strategic programs in the Provost’s Office.

“I have a lot of knowledge about the division, about the UI, a commitment to those things,” Hansen said. “I have a history of change-making and change that lasts.”

Fostering a sense of belonging among students and creating a culture of experience, mentoring, and care is among Hansen’s priorities for the position, she said. For example, she said that closing opportunity gaps and expanding experiential learning opportunities for students at the undergraduate and graduate levels will promote integrative learning.

“Our job is to constantly be aligning and in a relationship with our friends on the academic side so that we can really and truly align across the campus,” she said.

Hansen also highlighted her initiatives of well-being and diversity, equity, and inclusion. She said that ensuring commitment from directors and leaders in the Provost’s Office to increase inclusivity would also increase connections among students, faculty, and staff.

She also said that engaging in conversation and expanding “resilience programs” through the creation of campus-wide messaging surrounding well-being could meet student needs.

One of Hansen’s core beliefs is that relationships are essential in building trust and addressing students’ needs. In order to develop relationships, faculty and staff must engage in conversations with people of all backgrounds and viewpoints in order to support a culture of well-being, she said.

“Trust is an essential element of leadership, so our staff has to feel trusted that they are experts in their area, and they have to be able to trust the VP to go to that person with any issue,” she said.

In a question from the search committee for the Provost’s Office, Hansen was asked about the 2019 #DoesUIowaLoveMe movement on social media and how she planned to be proactive rather than reactive to student issues.

Her initial reaction to this social-media movement was sadness for students and their experiences in relations to the UI’s lack of inclusivity, Hansen said. In situations similar to this, she said, students are asking for compassionate and timely responses, which is a priority of hers in terms of communication.

Hansen said anyone in the division should be positioned to advocate for students, not just the vice president, in order to maintain relationships with students and see progress on campus.

“Our community is not equitable and inclusive if students don’t experience it that way,” she said.

UI Student Government Director of Justice and Equity Isabela Flores, a student lead in the Latino Native American Cultural Center, voiced concerns about how whoever assumes the position will hold the dominantly white President’s Cabinet — his core group of advisers and vice presidents — culturally accountable and engaged with students who come from a multitude of backgrounds.

“Relationship building is relationship building,” Hansen responded. “It requires time, investment, and getting to know individuals.”

Hansen said her goals as vice president for Student Life surround learning opportunities, experiences and exposure for a diverse community of students, faculty, and staff, and overall relationship-building across campus. Her extended experience, she said, makes her well-equipped to reach these goals.

“As the division that has contact with virtually all students at some point in their careers, I think that we are positioned to ensure that we’re supporting the development of these relationships,” she said.