will never have any allegiance to
the university or any involvement
with the campus. We just wanted
to create a wide range of opportunities for them to remain engaged.
There is no question that the more
students living on campus, the better your retention and graduation
rates will be. Residential students
are always going to be your most
PHOTO COURTESY OF UNIVERSI TY OF ARKANSAS
Johnetta Cross Brazzell with NUFP Fellows, whom she hosted at the 2008 Summer Leadership
Institute at the University of Arkansas.
Q: What are the greatest challenges facing the profession in the coming years?
Financing higher education is always going to be a challenge
for students, and how those funds trickle down to student
affairs is even more of a challenge because, for the most part,
student affairs operations have not been supported in the
same way as other areas of the university. Student affairs must
become more entrepreneurial about what we do and how we
do it, including how we acquire funds. I’ve been able to grow
my division by looking at a variety of revenue streams, and we
have been very successful.
If you are a senior student affairs officer, you need a fund-raiser as a part of your division. More and more student affairs
operations are moving in that direction and finding private
dollars to support their efforts.
Q: What innovative programs
for students have you found
most successful as part of the
University of Arkansas experience?
The first order of business for
us was to build a comprehensive
first-year experience program,
which has many elements to it. We
spent a semester with a committee
that was composed of representatives from every college and every
division on campus to come up
with a concept for a first-year experience. We spent the spring
semester selling it to the rest of the campus. We had faculty
talking to faculty, staff talking to staff, students talking to students because we wanted the campus to buy into the notion of
the comprehensive experience. We rolled it out in fall 2000. It
took about five years to roll out all of the elements of the first-year experience concept. It is my baby, my heart. The first-year
experience is a comprehensive program aimed at anchoring
our students, because we know that first year is critical.
Q: How has your office helped your university transition from a ‘suitcase’ college to a more traditional
The reality is that with any large research institution you are
always going to have more students living off campus than
on campus, but the feel of a campus will always be driven by
the number of residential living units. We have 19,000-plus
students at the University of Arkansas and only about 6,000
of them live on campus. It feels like a residential campus
because residence life has worked hard to create a sense of
community. When I first arrived at Arkansas, I could walk
across this campus on a Friday afternoon and the students and
faculty members were gone. There was no sense of a campus
community or campus life, so we created late-night weekend
programming and called it Friday Night Live. Another thing
that helped was that our home football games were finally
played in our own stadium, rather than three hours away in
Little Rock. If students are not calling this place home, they
Q: You’ve been a great mentor to students and colleagues. What are the most important components of
You must have a mentee who wants to be mentored and a
mentor who wants to do mentoring. It is a reciprocal relationship. It certainly is the most rewarding part of my work. I am
often asked by young professionals if they will lose the ability
to interact with students as they move up the career ladder.
The reality is that the higher you go up the ladder, the more
your job is consumed by administrative responsibilities. My
answer always is, ‘You will lose that contact if you choose to
lose that contact; you can maintain it if you choose to maintain it.’ My days could be filled with all of the meetings that
I have to attend, but I make sure that students are scheduled
to see me.
It is my responsibility to mentor young professionals, mid-level professionals, and students. That’s my job. In my portfolio right now, I have about 40 mentees at different stages. I see
first-year students much more often. I see students in trouble
more frequently. I’ve seen students on a weekly basis if they are
in crisis situations. That interaction with students is the most
rewarding part of my job.
Mentoring is also the rewarding part of my job with my
staff. I only want people working with me who are ambitious,