By: Joshua Ceballos/News Director
Career counselors and a welcome package for online students are just some of the changes students can expect following the merger between two divisions.
Larry Lunsford, the vice president of Student Affairs for the past six years is retiring this December, and his spot will be taken by Elizabeth Bejar, the current vice president of Academic Affairs.
Bejar’s taking up of the position also comes with a new division change, as she has been appointed as senior vice president for Academic and Student Affairs.
As it stands now, Academic Affairs is the division that is in charge of curriculum design, and Bejar reports to the provost in matters relating to students and faculty in the classroom. Several departments fall under the Academic Affairs umbrella, including the Center for Advancement of Teaching and the office of Academic Planning & Accountability, among others.
Student Affairs, on the other hand, is in charge of student programming, and is the entity in charge of the Student Government Association, Greek Life, Student Media, and many more.
Starting Sunday, July 15, with Bejar’s first day in the position, these divisions will merge under her supervision, and she will now be reporting directly to President Mark B. Rosenberg as well as the provost.
With the union of the two divisions, Bejar told Student Media she hopes to expose more students to the services that Student Affairs offers by focusing on their main points of contacts: professors.
“The professors are who the students see every day, and they’re the ones who will notice if a student suddenly starts to behave strangely, starts to isolate themselves or let their grades slip, so professors can refer those students to counseling or other support services,” said Bejar.
This ties in with what Lunsford said is one of the main disciplines of Student Affairs: protecting students.
“We’re accused of being the touchy feely people because we’re caring, we care about student development,” said Lunsford. “Student Affairs people, our RA’s and counselors, save student lives when they feel insecure or in danger.”
Lunsford said to Student Media that his hope for this merger is that students have more exposure to the services that the University has to offer, including Career Services. According to Lunsford, Academic and Student Affairs is looking to assign students career advisors along with their academic advisors.
“Career services should begin in freshman year to learn what you need to do to prepare yourself to get a career when you graduate,” said Lunsford.
Bejar echoed Lunsford’s sentiments when it comes to careers, and she said that just like a student has a degree audit for their classes, they should have a four-year career audit that suggests what steps to take so they have a career as soon as they leave the University.
Bejar also wants students to be engaged in more places than just the Graham Center, where the majority of tabling for events and services goes on.
“Some students have most or all of their classes in or around the law building, can eat at the Mango building, and never have to see GC. We need to make sure we are talking to students all over campus,” said Bejar.
On-campus students aren’t the only focus in Bejar’s plan, as she hopes to involve FIU Online in the Student Affairs experience as well. This will involve webcasting events that happen on campus, and through a newly piloted welcome package.
For the fall semester, students enrolled in fully online degree programs will receive a welcome package in the mail with videos and modules from different Student Affairs departments, including the Recreation and Wellness Center, to involve them at FIU as well, according to Bejar.
Lunsford is on professional development leave starting Monday, July 16, to focus on authoring part of a book about leading Student Affairs, but he said he has confidence that Bejar will do well in his place.
“She’ll have her plate full, but she can do it, if she couldn’t then the president wouldn’t have chosen her,” Lunsford said. “We’re the second largest division behind the College of Arts, Sciences and Education… but she’s inheriting great people who will help her transition.”
Bejar herself said that this merger will take a lot of work, and she has to be willing to ask a lot of questions that may not be answered about what Student Affairs means for a university like FIU that is not traditionally residential, but she has many goals for what it can become.
“I think FIU has the potential to be a national model for what student affairs in the 21st century can be like at a research university,” she said.
Featured image courtesy of CASE