In first year, Cavins-Tull enlists students’ thoughts

The past eight months have been a time of learning and growth for everyone at the university — including Kathy Cavins-Tull.

The Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, who started July 1, said she felt as though she came into the university just like a new student.

With open eyes and the ability to listen to and to get to know students in their own environment, Cavins-Tull used her first eight months to integrate with the culture of the university and to find out where change is necessary, she said.

Don Mills, the former vice chancellor for student affairs who now serves as distinguished professor of educational leadership, said his favorite part about his first year was the ability to get things done after having an idea.

He said he started working on big things like making academic orientation better, creating Frog Camp and evaluating the quality of student life facilities.

Cavins-Tull said she felt she brought a new energy to the campus and that she knew it was time for her and her staff to figure out where change should happen in the department of Student Affairs.

Looking to the future, Cavins-Tull said she was excited about the great student leaders on campus as well as some of the recent goals set by Chancellor Victor Boschini and the board of trustees, such as 100 percent residency on campus.

“It is a great time to be a Horned Frog,” Cavins-Tull said. “There is so much excellence here.”
She wants to make sure the Student Affairs program would experience the same excellence, she said.

Robin Williamson, senior director of Student Development Services, said it was obvious that Cavins-Tull had a lot of experience in
student affairs.

Cavins-Tull asks questions about how and why the organizers of orientation do things the way they always have, Williamson said. She said that just like with Mills, having a fresh perspective helped refine aspects of orientation but with a different energy.

Current and former Orientation Student Assistants appreciated Cavins-Tull’s authenticity and her desire to get to know students, Williamson said. Cavins-Tull has embraced becoming part of the Horned Frog family, she said.

Sophomore middle school math education major Kayla Jarzombek said Cavins-Tull and the board of trustees work with Intercom, an umbrella organization that involves all the organization presidents on campus, to address student concerns.

Jarzombek, involved as president of the Residence Hall Association, said Cavins-Tull is fun, entertaining and great to work with. She said Cavins-Tull reaches out to get the students involved in conversations and never acts like talking to students is a burden.

Cavins-Tull said she got the chance to see deeper into student interactions after challenging situations. She said having to make decisions about the student drug arrests and suicides helped her to learn even as she saw how students reacted.

“We learn more from the experiences that are tougher for us because it really does help you understand what you are made of,” Cavins-Tull said.

Students talked openly to her and the chancellor about the importance of living on a healthy, safe campus that is free of drugs, she said.

She said she, also, wanted student leaders on campus, including those who may not hold an official position, to be trained and empowered to speak out against what is wrong.

Cavins-Tull said she wanted to make sure everyone was treated with respect and kindness and that the university must maintain its integrity and reach those students who may be making risky decisions.