The Student Affairs division of Lehigh University was recognized in March as one of the “30 Most Promising Places to Work” in student affairs in the United States and Canada by the American College Personnel Association.
Ranking at No. 11, this recognition “speaks to our commitment to the professional development of our staff,” said Sharon Basso, dean of students.
In recent years, Lehigh’s Student Affairs has been working toward hiring resourceful employees and encouraging students on campus to be more involved in activities and events that Student Affairs hosts. The role of Student Affairs, as written in the Strategic Vision statement of the Student Affairs division, is “to support and enhance the University’s educational mission. At the core of all we do is a commitment to promote student success in and outside the classroom. The living and learning environment should inspire, challenge and support students to achieve their full potential as individuals, as members of the Lehigh community and as citizens of a larger society.”
In order to benefit the students, Lehigh’s Student Affairs aims to hire employees that “care deeply about the students,” according to John Smeaton, Vice Provost for Student Affairs. Smeaton said that the national recognition of Lehigh’s Student Affairs can be attributed to the quality of his colleagues.
“Both our exempt and non-exempt staff are outstanding professionals who are incredibly dedicated to our mission,” he said.
“Quality of care and the value of the learning opportunities offered to our students [by Student Affairs]is exceptional,” Smeaton said.
Not only does the Student Affairs division work closely with the university to enhance the intellectual growth of its students, it also works within specific groups of students, such as Greek chapters, in order to enhance the values based experience of Lehigh students, according to Tim Wilkinson, senior assistant dean of students and director of Fraternity and Sorority affairs.
“Fraternity and Sorority Affairs fulfills various roles by providing programs and services for Lehigh’s Greek community,” Wilkinson said. “Our programs tend to revolve around our accreditation process, health and safety of students, diversity and community building, as well as specific aspects of being a member of a Greek chapter.”
Like Smeaton, Wilkinson also attributes the success of the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs to the division’s incomparable faculty and staff.
“We recruit through various conferences such as the Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors Annual Meeting and the Northeast Greek Leadership Association Conference,” Wilkinson said. “We also spend quite a bit of time talking with colleagues in the field who may be working with outstanding young professionals.”
Recently, Student Affairs has been creating and supporting initiatives such as bLUeprint, LeaderShape Lehigh and Lehigh After Dark in order to encourage student health and mental well-being while also supporting diversity and leadership. In addition, the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs has been promoting TIPS training for Greek chapter members, a program that aims to establish safe drinking habits and a nontoxic social environment at Lehigh.
Smeaton said the Student Affairs division also has many other programs designed to foster student growth during the college experience. There are divisions for Health and Safety, Student Jobs and Opportunities, Distinctive Lehigh Student Life Experiences, Campus Life, Advocacy and Equity, and Academic Services that all aim to help Lehigh students grow both their personal and intellectual development.
Offices like the Women’s Center and the Office of the First-Year Experience exist and function as a result of the Student Affairs division. The Office of First-Year Experience has expanded first-year orientation into a year-long process that provides first-years a smooth transition into college while supporting their living and learning experiences as adults.
“Through working with students individually, in various groups and as part of the overall campus population, I believe we are able to contribute to a campus environment that is able to attract outstanding students and provide distinctive learning opportunities that will serve them, and Lehigh, well during their time on campus and throughout their lives,” Smeaton said.