New department name, same department goal

When Dr. Bernarnd Anderson started his new job as the associate vice chancellor for Student Life, he was not given much time to settle into his new surroundings. In fact, within the next day of his arrival, Bernard found himself accompanying the rest of the administrative staff on their annual retreat. He said he took it all in stride.

“It was exciting, and I thought it was very worthwhile to have that experience,” Anderson said. “I think what was valuable to having my second day be our division retreat is that we’re a large division, and so it’s, I would say, very uncommon that we are all together in one place at one time. So, being a new person coming in, that was one way in catching the entire division in one fell swoop.”

Mentha Hynes-Wilson, vice chancellor of Student Affairs, believes that Bernard’s transition to UW Tacoma has been wonderful.

“It’s only been [a few] weeks, but it feels like he has always been a member of the team,” Hynes-Wilson said.

Anderson was brought on to head what is now the Office of Student Life, which was previously known as the Office of Student Engagement. Under this office, Anderson oversees several aspects of student life on campus including Student Health Services, Disability Resources for Students, Counseling and Psychological Services and Student Engagement — not to be confused with the aforementioned Office of Student Engagement. This means that everything from student government and student organizations, to campus housing and the University Y Student Center fall under his purview.

The rebrand to Student Life is one which Anderson and his team worked on in order to better encapsulate what he believed the new job should represent.

“I shared my musings with my unit heads that report to me, and I said ‘here’s my thoughts, and I am open to your feedback, but I think we would benefit in rebranding ourselves and the nomenclature that is used as our identity as a team,’” Anderson said. “And so, long story short, from that was born the nomenclature of Student Life. That, we felt, was much more accurately reflective of the work we individually, and collectively, did.”

Anderson’s job is a combination of Director of Student Planning and Administration Kathleen Farrell’s and Dean of Student Engagement Ed Mirecki’s positions, both of which were discontinued after last year’s administrative budget cuts.

On discussing the biggest challenge he has had in getting into his new role, Anderson said that being new has been the hardest part of taking the job. Anderson also mentioned that with being new means the opportunity to take on and refine some of the quirks, as he called them, of the UWT campus.

“I’m still amazed at how mom-and-pop shop UWT is,” Anderson said. “Because we are still so very young, barely 30 years old, that there is still seemingly this mom-and-pop-shop mentality that certain areas and practices are shaped and defined. So, we’ve got to break that mold. We aren’t a mom-and-pop-shop. We are a growing university. We are major university, and I think that is part of what enticed me about this opportunity.” 

As far as immediate plans, Anderson and his team — with Equity and Inclusion, faculty and Campus Safety and Security — are currently working on the development of a campus crisis emergency protocols. 

Anderson said that he wants to challenge the notion of UWT being a commuter campus and to push towards what Hynes-Wilson calls a “sticky campus.” One of the long term goals Anderson wants to help reach is to bring in more traditional students while still being there to provide for non-traditional students.

“I would certainly reiterate to students the importance of getting involved on the campus,” Anderson said. “It’s not just me, but it is research study after research study in addition to my own experiences as a former student leader myself. The power, the impact and the change that comes from students really stepping into leadership roles. It’s really the students who are the architects of change on the campus, and the students really lead the way in creating the culture of the campus.”

The Office of Student Life and Dr. Bernard Anderson invites students to get involved around campus. The office is in charge of many aspects of a student’s campus life, such as student organizations, health services, housing and conduct.