And What of Our Community? An Interview with our new VP of Student Affairs

pamela anthonyOn February 1, Dr. Pamela Anthony, dean of students at Iowa State University, joined SMU as our new Vice President of Student Affairs. Amid a nationwide discussion of diversity and free speech on college campuses, along with the ineffectual Residential Commons system closer to home, I had the chance to speak with her about her plans for SMU.

You’ve been named the Vice President of Student Affairs, and you’ve been here for now a month in this office. 

Yes. Tomorrow it’ll be 30 days.

So what are student affairs?

When you think of the way an institution is structured, everybody knows you come to college to get a degree, so there’s the academic portion of the institution. Well, think about all the other things that you do outside of academics. You join student organizations. You have challenges sometimes and you need to go to counseling or the health center. You go to the rec center. You might be interested in some diversity work or diversity programming, so there’s the Office of Multicultural Affairs. When I think about student affairs, I think of the out-of-classroom experiences that complement the academic experience. When you come to college, we want you to graduate. Along that way to the degree, I want you to develop some skills. I want you to learn how to communicate. I want you to interact with people who might be different from you. I want you to be a critical thinker. I want some leadership skills. And I want you to have fun. I absolutely want you to have fun along the way.

How do you foster those skills and turn someone into a functioning adult?

Well, hopefully when they come, they’re sort of functioning. Honestly, I think it’s about creating opportunities and experiences for growth. I’ll give you an example: When I went to college, I went as a music major. I wanted to sing. I didn’t know anything about technical aspects of music. I took music theory, and I failed. So I decided I wanted to change my major. But along the way, I became an orientation leader and a resident assistant, and it was there that I learned to communicate with people who were different from me, to help solve problems—you know, as a resident assistant, you are a problem solver. It was there that I started to develop my own leadership skills. When I think about being in all the student organizations I was a part of—I joined a sorority, and I became the president, and let me tell you about dealing with conflict. But I learned how to think critically about problems. I learned how to be resourceful and find the answers—how to just work with people. And it was there that somebody told me, “This is a career in higher education.” I didn’t go to be a dean. I didn’t even know what a dean or a Vice President did. When I think about being a speech pathology major, which is what I wound up doing…I am not a speech pathologist. But it’s because along the way I realized that there was something else that I was passionate about, and it was helping people. I think about our students who get involved with intramurals, for example. You learn about teamwork and camaraderie. Or think about all the group projects you do in class. We hope that you come out of college and you’re a little more well-rounded. You’re a little more open minded.

We come from all different backgrounds. I. Ike from my background where my parents have been married for 55 years, but when I went to college, a lot of my friends were coming out of broken homes. That’s not a bad thing, but that’s their reality. I came in with these rose-colored glasses, like “The world is great, and I have everything I need,” and they’re like “That’s not the real world,” or “That’s not our experience,”, so it really exposed me to different perspectives that I would not have had if I had not gone to college. So there are a lot of ways that you can develop all the skills we want you to have. And we trick you sometimes.

I like what you said about the rose-colored glasses, and it dovetails nicely into another question: SMU has a lot of stereotypes around it. A lot of the students come in with these rose-colored glasses, and it’s often seen as having discriminatory students. In your time here, have you seen that as part of the culture? If so, what can we do to make the campus more inclusive, diverse, and respectful?

Let me just say: I have been here thirty days. I can’t say that I’ve seen anything, really. But I do understand that there is a historical perspective and stereotype associated with a school like SMU. To be honest, most private schools—because the sticker price is significantly higher than a public school—most private schools have that perspective of “This is for the rich kids”. Even when I worked at Spelman (sp?), which is a historically black [women’s] college, the demographic was different, but the stereotype was [still]: “Oh, these women all have rich families.” Well, that was not true. Now, that might be true here, but 85% of the students at Spelman were on financial aid. [Note: SMU reports that XX% of its students are on financial aid.] It was a very elite, highly selective institution, and it had an elitist persona, so there were people who negatively said, “Well, I wouldn’t want to go there. All the girls are a certain way.” And think about our high schools. I was having a conversation with a friend of mine the other day. He has a 10-year-old son in private school, and we were talking about high school. I said, “You wouldn’t send your son to public school?” (They live in D.C.) And he said, “No, absolutely not. I’m a public school administrator, but what I know is that the private school has more resources, so it costs more.” Now, I went to public school—free. This particular person is willing to pay $20,000 a year for his son to go to private school, and my response is that as parents, if you have the blessing of the resources to send your child to private school, i think you should send your kid to private school. That’s the long way of answering your question, though: I think it’s okay that people come to college with their own perspective, because that’s their life. That’s the life they’ve lived. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a person who is privileged, or that their parents had money. I don’t see anything wrong with it. I think that where we go astray, thought, is if our family backgrounds have prejudiced behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs that people are inferior. That is a problem, and I would hope that individuals who come into this environment that have that perspective would have their perspective broadened to see that we’re all people, and nobody is more important than any other because of socioeconomic status or gender or race or sexuality—all those things that make us different. At the end of the day, if I cut open my heart and I cut open yours, I bet every time, the blood’s still gonna be red. Regardless of the resources I had or didn’t have, that doesn’t really matter. So, I hope we could instill a sense that everybody matters regardless of where you come from. I think if you break it down, think bout the principle of being a good Samaritan. I hope that if i ever saw somebody in need, it would not matter to me what resources they have or don’t. I can remember being in a car accident and flipping over an embankment, now I was by myself, and there was no one there to help me so my car flipped and rolled over, all of those things. I’d like to believe that if someone saw me, that they would help me and could care less about the fact that I’m a woman, that I’m black, that I have on red shoes verses blue—whatever. So to me that good Samaritan principle, I hope, would matter more than who we are or who we’re not.

What systems have you seen implemented at other universities, or have implemented yourself, that you plan to bring here?

Here’s what I would say to that, one of the things I think makes a good leader. It would be inappropriate for me to come in with this predetermined notion of the things I’m going to do, because I don’t know what’s here. So really my first year, I’m going to be an observer. Now, i’m going to make decisions, because I have to and I like to, but I’m not that person who has it written down. Because guess what? What I did at Iowa State, what I did in Alaska, what I did at Georgia State, what I did at Spellman—may not work here. Or, you all may be doing it better. So I as a leader, have to take the time to talk to students, faculty and staff, and then develop a team approach. I am not a dictator and I never want to be, I’m never that person to come up with all these ideas and say here: let’s go do that. No, that’s probably not going to work, so I have to be at the table, I need to come to students and say, “So tell me what you like about SMU?” That’s generally what I ask students. “Tell me what you don’t like,” that’s the thing I like about students, you’ll give it to me straight. and Sometimes I’m like, “Oh wait, I wasn’t ready for that response!” but it’s true. So I love talking to students because you will tell me the truth and tell me what you’re experiencing, and if i hear a common theme that we all agree needs to be changed, then I need to say, “I’ve talked to ten students and eight of the ten said the same thing, we need to address that.” And it’s not always negative, I always want to know what’s fun, what’s new, what do you like, what’s happening. And we need to capitalize on that, maybe we need to put more resources here. Like when I was in my interview, I was on my tour, it was funny, and I asked about the health center,and they were like, “nobody goes to the health center,” I said, “Why”, and they were like, “Because they’ll kill you.” (Don’t you print that.) But they unleashed, but you know what, it’s their experience.

Hopefully this new building cleans things up with the perception.

It will, It will, we’re gonna have to spend some time marketing our brand, because, you know, you can build a new pretty building, but if the  people are the same and the system’s not changed, you’re just in a new pretty building. So, that’s on my radar because of what students told me when I interviewed. Because I remember that. They were like, “we would much rather go off campus,” One student said, “I would rather get in my car and drive twenty minutes to go to my family doctor before I let anyone in that health center touch me.” I was like, “Oh!” and I remember thinking, “If i get this job, note to self: we have some perception issues to change, and it might not be perception, it might be some things we need to say uh-uh, we can’t do that anymore.” Again, long answer is, I don’t have a specific program or idea I want to bring to SMU, because I really need to understand what SMU is already bringing to me. A lot of institutions talk about best practices, so they look to their peer institutions and aspirate institutions to see what they’re doing. I want people to look at us. I want people to say, “They’re doing some really great things at SMU,” I wsaant us to be at conferences presenting about what we’re doing and writing about what we’re doing, so that other people are looking at us as the model, that’s the achiever in me though. Because you can’t do this job sitting in an office, but there’s a part of trying to get settled that will take me a while, like the other day I went to a meeting,…and I realized I don’t know where the library is, so I asked saw a student and I said, “Do you know where the library is?” and they were like, “Yeah, it’s over there,” and I was going actually to another building, Embry, is that right? Because I was going to meet with Dean Christiansen, and the student said, “Why don’t you just walk with me,” and I was like, “Oh that was so sweet.” Because I’m the new kid, and you have to depend on everybody else to give you information, but that’s the beauty of it, because I can ask students about your perspectives of whats going on, and you’re going to tell me, which I appreciate. Faculty and Staff will tell me too, but they’re a little bit jaded, I mean, just because they work here, But y’all are like “nnn-nnn, let me tell you want we like, and what we don’t like.”

And when it comes to student affairs, I take it the students are best to ask about it.

Yes, I tell people all the time, when I was a Dean of Students, the part of my job that I liked the most was the ‘of students’. Thats why you do this kind of work, if you look at any organization advisors, or any of our staff here. I hope that most of them would tell you that the reason they got into this field and they continue is because they love students. They either had a really good time in college like I did, or they had a bad time and want to change it, and you know you can have both. But that’s why we’re here, to make sure you have good experiences.

Among things you might have heard about from students, this is one of the hot topics in Hilltopics right now, the residential commons system, have you heard much about that? what do you see as the future of that and the present of that?

Let me just say, I’m biased because I lived on campus all four years as man undergraduate, and had a ball. I mean I loved it, I understand why people move off campus of course, but for me, I think of a residential commons model and a requirement to live on campus as a good thing. I know that it challenges some people, but let me tell you what you get, particularly as a first year student: it’s an instant community, so when I think about going to college, all of us were like, we’re all awkward, we all don’t know, we’re all afraid, you know, but it was great to have people who I was doing this together with, even though I didn’t know them, had never met them, and all thongs things. So to me, I actually like the idea of a commons model, there’s some statistics in higher education that show that students who are more connected and who are more involved do better academically, and so that’s the goal of building that community. I don’t know that the specific issues are, so I can’t really speak to those, but maybe you could tell me. So here is what happens though: The residential commons model is so new here, that I think, from what I can understand, I think the idea is great, but I think there are some probably foundational policies about things that we did not think all the way through, and now we’re having to go back and say, “Oh, wait a minute, we didn’t really think about that,” I think that’s what’s happening, because it’s so new. It sounds like it was, people were hung ho and it was exciting, but there’s some other things that we might not have prepared for that we need to think about.

SMU is developing a reputation among the students for leaping and then looking.

I think that’s fair, I think that’s a fair, based on the limited knowledge that I have, but I’ve heard that concept articulated by not just students but by faculty and staff.

There’ve been talks of setting up a multi-cultural center in Hughes-Trigg and with every decision the University makes or hints at there’s people on both sides of the dime. So what are some of your thoughts on this proposed multi-cultural center and what it takes to make that effective?

So again, without having details, because I don’t have details about that, I think this goes back to the residential commons, the idea of leaping then looking, which I love that term. You know, there are people who would suggest that you can’t force people to be multi-cultural. And there is some truth to that, I mean I absolutely agree there’s some to that. But I think that we do a disservice to you all as students if we don’t expose you to different Ideologies and different people. Because guess what? the world is made up of different ideologies and people, right? So unless people plan to stay in their home town which is homogenous, most of our home towns are homogenous. Unless we tend to stay in that area and we never branch out for the rest of our lives, then maybe we could be successful. But I think about—I have had the opportunity to travel abroad many, many times, and even as an American citizen, I took everything for granted because I was an American, but let me tell you what, when I went to China and did not know how to speak any Chinese, It was very isolating, it was scary, it was all these things that I just had never experienced because I had didn’t have to. You know what I mean? So I think that we do you a disservice if we don’t expose you and challenge you sometimes to remember those ideologies that people come to college with and their parents and, let’s all face the reality that our world was built on the backs of under-represented populations. That’s just a fact. We don’t have to like it, but it just is. and so we do know that there are people that believe that certain people are inferior. I reject that ideology, but there are some people who believe that, so when I think about a multicultural, intercultural words that you can use. I think it is important for SMU to have a spirit of everybody matters at this institution, no matter where you come from or no matter where you’re going. So, again, I don’t really know the specifics, and I haven’t received a formal proposal, it might exist but I don’t know about it.

The concern that I’ve heard most about it is that by establishing this one place for multicultural groups for different under-represented groups to come together it’s saying “this is THE place for them” and then the rest of the campus becomes for everyone else, sort of like establishing a free speech zone, meaning that the rest of the campus is not that way.

You know, I’ve heard that argument before. I don’t know that I agree with it, but I understand it. Because I think that perspective often times is a privileged perspective, because there are places we know, again, not SMU specifically, but in our society, where under-represented populations or people haven’t been welcome. And so I think that the idea that there is a place where people feel safe and welcome is important. Should they feel safe and welcome everywhere? Absolutely. And should we do our best to make sure that every place on this campus is a welcoming space? Absolutely. But here’s what happens, and I can speak to this from experience, when you’re in a situation where you’re the only this, and again it doesn’t have to be race, it tends to land there. But you know I’ve worked with students who identify in the LGBT community and they said to me, “the importance of finding people with like-minded perspectives, it’s safe for me.” So sexual identity is not an orientation, it’s not something you can always see, sometimes you might be able to see it, but you know, you don’t know all the time where people are. And so for a person to know, if I’m identifying or I’m struggling in my identity, I know that if I go to the Women & LGBT Center, they have been trained to recognize my issues, my perspectives in a way that perhaps other people haven’t, and I know if I go there, They’re gonna have hopefully some specific resources for me that, if I go to the career center, it doesn’t mean that I’m not welcome in the career center, it just means that they have not been specifically trained in how to serve me in this particular identity. So I think that there’s a way to have a place where people know. It’s kind of like— this is a real trite example but I’m going to give it to you— I’m a shopper. I love to shop. As a larger woman, there are some stores the just don’t carry my size. It doesn’t mean I’m not welcome in that store. But if I want to go buy a formal dress, I’m not gonna go to Forever 21(partly because I’m not 21 anymore) but because the clothes in that store don’t necessarily fit me the way I want them to, whereas if I go to Macy’s, or I go to Dillard’s, or I go to Nordstrom’s or wherever, I’m gonna find a section of that store— a small section—that will have clothes to fit me. It’s my reality though. That is a very personal example, but it’s true. You know, so I may want to go into Black House White Market because I love their clothes, but because they don’t carry my size, I, again, I feel welcome in the store, I absolutely do. But I can’t buy anything there because it doesn’t fit me. if I go to Macy’s or Dillard’s (in Northpark Mall, because, I moved here 30 days ago and I know where the mall is. I know how to get to work, and i know where the mall is.) I know that if I go to Macy’s on the second floor, there is a women’s section that has clothes in my size, I can go in and find something to wear, just a reality.

How have you been adjusting to Dallas?

I used to live in Atlanta, years ago, and I lived 12 years in Atlanta, so for me Dallas feels like that. I’ve been in Aimes, Iowa, I had been there for 3 1/2 years. I loved Iowa State, Aimes, not so much. Small college town, no Macy’s in the whole state of Iowa, I mean really. That’s what I said, “What do you mean there’s no—?” Minnesota was three hours away, I would literally get in my car on a Saturday and drive three hours to go to Macy’s, I’m just saying. And not a lot of diversity, again it’s a very midwestern agricultural school, nice people, just not, you know, super diverse. So when I think about Dallas, you have two airports, I can fly internationally without taking a layover, I’m just saying it’s the things that you forget about. The great restaurants here, the great shopping, and just all the people and the downtown. I haven’t been out a lot of places so I don’t know a lot of things but I’m looking forward to getting out whenever I get some downtime. I don’t know when that’s gonna happen, but I’m looking forward to just exploring. I want to get on the DART and just ride around. Like, I’ll be a tourist, like I’m gonna get out my little map, I just haven’t had a chance to. I’ve been to see the Mavericks play, so that’s great. I cannot wait to go see the Cowboys, I have not been there. So when I think about coming to SMU and Dallas it was coming to a world class institution and a world class city. I was like, “Oh I’m sold.” I was minding my business, I wasn’t job searching, I was literally doing my own thing and I got a call from the recruiter saying, “Hey, you’ve been nominated for this job,” I’m like, “What? What? Huh? What are you talking about?” I don’t believe in coincidence, I believe in divine providence and that you get to where you’re supposed to go when you’re supposed to get there.

One or two years ago, there was a proposal for an LGBT chair in the student senate. Most people on campus thought it would pass, and comments were made on YikYak disparaging the idea, and after that the motion did not pass. I’d like to ask you about both the place for YikYak and the general principle of free speech on campus and when it becomes discriminatory or hateful and should be curtailed.

Yes, it’s dicey, it’s ok. So here’s what I would say. Remember when I told you that I talk to students and learn how things work? When I interviewed, I heard that too. I had the opportunity to meet with some students and they shared that with me, and I think, if I’m not mistaken, I think one of the students is in the LGBT community, I think. And they were saying about, you know, they were hoping there would be some representation, and the senate, you know, blocked it or whatever, and we had a good dialogue about that. Their bottom line was: we were hoping to have this opportunity to have our voices on the student Senate and we did not, and I was pretty surprised by that. Because I wasn’t sure if it was because of SMU’s Methodist affiliation and/or if it was just because of some bigoted attitudes. I really didn’t know. So, your question is about YikYak and I have to say, I love social media, I do. However, I am not and never will be a fan of anonymity in that way, because I think it gives people an opportunity to spew hate and not have to put their names on it, because I think if you had to put your name on some things, there are some people, I appreciate people who would say to me, (I mean I wouldn’t agree with them of course), but if they said to me, you know, “I think that black people and gay people and poor people,” Whatever, whatever characteristic you want, “are inferior.” Because what that would tell me is, that would tell me who that person is. And they are entitled to believe that. I mean, I’m not gonna spend my time telling you that I’m not inferior, I’m just gonna not be inferior and do my own business, right? So, I don’t like the idea of an online forum where you get to say all these hurtful things and not be held accountable for the things that you say, that’s just personal to me. Because I think people have a whole lot of keyboard courage. And they don’t have that same courage if they have the opportunity to tell me that personally.

So do you think that anonymity provides any defense though, for disenfranchised groups, who wouldn’t feel as comfortable if there’s, not necessarily a hateful message, but one that is generally, I guess, in the population at large, as less.

I just don’t see the need for anonymity. I think, again, if you believe whatever it is you believe you are entitled to believe that, but believe it with your name on it.

So should SMU curtail access to YikYak, maybe block it on school Wi-Fi, something like that?

You know, I don’t know, I’m in the middle of that one—again, that came up in conversation in a group I was in recently. Because curtailing it doesn’t change people. So if I believe that I’m a better person than you, for whatever reason that I believe that, me not being able to say it anonymously on YikYak does not change my belief. Now, does it provide hopefully an environment for you that feels safe? Perhaps it does. So I think that—oh I could talk a lot about this— but I have never had an experience in my life as a black woman where I have felt unsafe, and by unsafe I mean that my physical person was in danger. I have not personally experienced that. However, I have friends who have, and part of their concern was because of things people said. It wasn’t because people came up to them and held a gun to their head or anything like that, but it was because they are in environments where people are saying, “You’d better watch your back,” or they’re writing messages. I have a friend who’s in the LGBT community who was in college and walked into a room that had epithets on the wall, and that space says, “I’m not welcome here,” and If you feel like you’re not welcome here, then imagine how that can impact your psyche. Imagine how that can literally shape your success or failure at an institution. So I do think we have a responsibility to create safe spaces on campus, and that every space should be safe, and that people don’t have the opportunity in the name of free speech, to denigrate people. Again, I understand that our society is Christian and Heterosexual and all those majority identities, right? But there are so many people who don’t fall in those parameters. Where do they fit? You know what I mean? And I think an institution that is about access to higher education to anyone who can afford it and wants to come, should have spaces where people can thrive without people feeling like they’re unsafe in a space. I think we have to continue to have those complex conversations and challenge our students to say, “Yes, you’re entitled, you’re entitled to say what you want, but guess what? You’re also entitled to the consequences of your behavior.” Gotta be held accountable, So I think if you feel comfortable saying it, do it, but understand there could be consequences to you doing it. Particularly, the free speech one is a hot issue on every campus, because people feel like, “Oh, you know, you just want us to coddle you and make you feel good.” I don’t agree with that either, but I think when you get to the point of saying, you know, calling people names that we know are inciteful. Sometimes people try to act like, “I didn’t know you’d be offended,” Yes, you did. That’s why you said it anonymously, so I can’t trace it to you. Yes, you did. There are some things that we know that are triggers for marginalized populations, so I don’t buy it when people act like they didn’t know. Okay, you’ve been sleeping under a rock? I mean really, like, come on y’all, let’s not play dumb here. Let’s just say, “I believe this because,” I can respect a person who says that, even though I don’t agree with them and might be offended, and I can understand that me being offended is not— You have the right to offend me, you absolutely do. And I have the right to respond to you if need me. i’m just saying, you have to be able to deal with the consequences. And that’s what people don’t want to do. People want to say whatever, and then when you want to hold them accountable, Mama used to tell me there’s a reaction to every action. I don’t want to get into his political argument, but I think about a Treyvon Martin situation, and I think about George Zimmerman, who decides, he’s gonna be the vigilante in the neighborhood, and you don’t know what’s going on, but you decide because he’s a young black man with a hoodie on that he’s dangerous. And he has skittles! Not a gun! And that baby is six feet under, because you in your prejudiced mind decided he was a criminal. Unacceptable. You can’t make that make sense to me. You cannot, because he did not have a gun. He had skittles, or whatever the candy was that he had. Come on, now.

So it’s your office’s, and I guess your entire division’s job to educate us and make sure that we are whole human beings who respect one another, I think. If I’m understanding what you said earlier correctly.

But, you know what, I can’t make you respect me. I don’t think that’s my job. I think my job, and I think it’s an institutional responsibility, I don’t think it’s the department of student affairs specifically, but I think it’s our institutional responsibility to expose you to some different cultures and different ideologies with the hope that you can be a critical thinker for yourself. And that you don’t leave college with your parent’s perspectives of the world, right? Now, you may agree with your parents, and that’s okay, but you may not. You may come here and say, “Wow, I met some people and they’re Jewish, and they’re actually okay people!” You know what I mean? They don’t have to be this religion, or this race, or this, I think sexuality is such a hard thing for people, right? Because we grew up, I grew up, in a world of you’re a man or you’re a woman. there was no question: you’re a man or a woman. And now, that line has been blurred, and so many people have such issue with it. I don’t have issues with it. If you want to be a man, or a woman, or something in between, I don’t care. You know what I mean? But there’s so many people who will marginalize a person because of how that person identifies themselves. It’s their identity! Why do you care? But if, I’m telling you, there’s so much, you know, heteronormative behavior says if you’re not a man, and you’re not a woman, then there’s something wrong with you. But probably most of us grew up with this dichotomy. It’s either this or that. So this middle ground? It’s so uncomfortable for people. It is. And you know why? Because we can’t control it, and we don’t understand it. But people get so hung up, I’m like, but it’s them! So if they want to be a man or a woman or some—why do you care? I just, I just don’t know. Anyway, so I think our role is to teach you about being able to engage with people who are different than you, and not marginalize those people. In my world view, because we can all exist together. Because, and I told you, if I look at that person who identifies in a way that’s different than me. If I look right here, at the end of the day, their blood is still the same, their organs are still gonna be in the same place, the body’s gonna still function the same way. And it doesn’t— how I choose to identify or the color of my skin, whatever, how much money my parents had or didn’t have, doesn’t matter. You just can’t convince me that it matters. You just can’t, so.

HIlltopics readers want some new music recommendations. What’s next on your Spotify playlist?

Oh my God, that’s a good question! Oh! Okay, so, admittedly I love Beyonce. I mean, I do, I’ve seen her in concert twice. Yeah, I love her. And you know why I like her? One, because she can actually sing. I mean, like, without all the, you know, mixing, and, she can actually sing. I mean, I’m not saying she’s like the best singer, but she has good vocals. And she is such a performer. Like, I just, I love her. So, I mean, her new, of course, Formation is out there now so, I know, right? It’s whatever it is. Um, so, some new music for me is definitely going to be Beyonce. Um, What else do I like though? I mean, I like all kinds of—I like classical piano, instrumental, probably, but are piano. I also like rap, I’m kinda, I like Gospel, I mean really, just kinda depends on the day and what’s going on. Beyonce is really my favorite. I’m an old school pop kinda girl so, yeah, I like it all.

I know you’ve said you’ve been here for a month and you don’t want to come in with your own agenda to push onto the campus, but what is your vision for SMU?

You know, my vision is, it has to be, in the larger context of who SMU already is and where it wants to go. Which is not a decision I make by myself, right? So I’m coming into a place that’s coming off of a very successful campaign and a strategic plan that talks about how we’re gonna invest our resources. So for me it is to continue in that vein of making sure that we have great academic programs. Which I don’t, I don’t have any responsibility of that but supporting our students in our great academic programs, and the campus life. I think about, we were talking about ht student center and, you know, how do we utilize the facilities that we have available to us, because we may not have new money to build a new student center. We probably don’t. So, how do we use the places where students go, or should go, or where we want you to go, you know what I mean? So my vision really is about, um, making sure that the division of student affairs is well resourced and well equipped to meet the demands of not just students that are here, but students that are coming. so we have to stay relevant. So I think about going to college a long time ago, the things that I did in college 20 years ago, ya’ll will be like, “What are you talking about lady? That’s like, extinct.” You know what I mean? So really, it’s really about being relevant, and being innovative. I told you earlier, I want SMU, in terms of the division, I want us to be the role models. We won’t be role models in every category and subject, but I want us to be innovative and to use students as our resource. So we’re building things for you, but I also think we need to use you to make sure what we’re building is what you want. I mean, because sometimes, we get into these worlds and we think we know. And you talk to them and they’re like, “No, that went out of style five years ago.” I’m like, “Oh…” You know what I mean? Like, I remember, before the YikYaks of the world, I think about, I don’t know, what was it called? Myspace I think. I know, right? and then you know Facebook was like, all the rage, and then y’all are like, “Yeah, but we’re not on Facebook anymore,” Then you go to Twitter. “Oh, we’re not on Twitter anymore.” Then you go to Instagram. “Oh, we’re not on Instagram”— I mean, really. So I need you all to help me to say, what’s coming. Like, what’s out there now, but what’s coming her so that we can be prepared for that, so. That’s why I need students, I love social media, but the YikYaks of the world I just, I don’t, I can’t. And it’s interesting because even when I’m on Facebook, there are times when, I used to do a lot of notes and blogging. And if I can’t have what I say on Facebook, if I don’t want to see it in the paper, I don’t say it. I mean, I might call my friends and say it and be like, “Can you believe this? blahblahblahblahblah,” Yeah, I’ll do that. But if I cannot put y name on it, and don’t want it broadcast to the whole world, ‘cause things go viral real quick, then I just don’t say it. So you know, that’s what I’m saying I just want SMU and Student Affairs specifically to be the very very best that we can be. And so, yeah, we’ve got some work to do to get there.

I really appreciate how involved and attentive you are towards to students. 

Yes, I love y’all. I do, because I think of myself as a student. I mean, I joked with the woman who was here before, I loved college so much that I never left. I’m still here, you know? Three degrees later, two decades later, you know I think I’m doing all right, so. Yeah. I hope you’ll come back and see me, or tell me what’s going on, tell me where I need to be. One of the things I want to do is figure out how to reach students. Like, I can’t know everybody, I mean, and I know that there’s some key student organizations, but I wanna also meet, just like your average person who’s a student. They may not be a student leader, they may not even be involved. I just kinda want to know what they like, what they don’t like, what they’d love to see. I mean, you know, so if there are events that you think, “Oh my God, you have to go to that,” please tell me. And give me some advance notice because my schedule is crazy so I don’t have a whole bunch of open time where I’m like, “Oh, what do I do?”

This interview was conducted by Arya McCarthy. Click here to see more of Arya’s work.
Article republished in memorial of Dr. Pamela Anthony.