An Interview with Johnetta Cross Brazzell
BY KHADISH O. FRANKLIN
Johnetta Cross Brazzell, vice chancellor for student affairs at the University of Arkansas, has played a signifi-
cant role in moving the university from a ‘suitcase’ college to a student-centered campus environment. Her
efforts have contributed to a more diverse student body and a dramatic increase in the number of African
American students graduating from the university.
Previously, Brazzell was vice president of student affairs and
on the faculty of Spelman College, and was associate dean
of students at the University of Arizona in Tucson. She has
served in numerous positions in professional organizations
that include NASPA, the Association of American Colleges
and Universities, the Arkansas College Personnel Association,
the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant
Colleges, and the Project on the Future of Higher Education.
Throughout her career, she has been committed to mentoring
both students and colleagues.
Q: As you prepare to retire, what are the most significant changes you have seen in student affairs?
I’ve been in higher education for nearly 37 years. The most
significant change is the strong professionalization of this area
as a career track. There now is a firm theoretical foundation
along with a professional development element in the profession. When I graduated from college, got my master’s degree,
and started working in higher education, I wasn’t aware of
anything called student affairs.
I have seen the whole environment for students and
campuses change since the 1960s. What is required of higher
education institutions has changed, and institutions now
have different kinds of relationships with students. In the
earlier years, student affairs staff members were the people
who made sure students toed the line. There was nothing
developmental about many of those early practitioners. As
students changed, as the environment changed, as society
changed, we moved away from the notion that we were
parents on campus. We reached another level where we came
to be viewed as educators and teachers. We began to see
ourselves in a different way.