who are creative, and who want to go some place. I tell them,
‘You cannot retire on me before you retire. I expect you to be
on the cutting edge of your profession.’ One of the first conversations I have with a new employee who is reporting to me
is about his or her ambitions and goals. If a goal is to become
a vice chancellor or to become a dean, we must figure out how
to make that happen. What are the things that you need to
do? What do I need to give you? How do I need to interact
with you? What do I need to expose you to that will get you
ready to make that next move? If I think that you’re not ready
to move to that next level, it’s my responsibility to say what
you need to do to make that move. I tell folks that I want the
bragging rights for the vice presidents of student affairs out
there that once worked under me. I also have a president out
The senior people who report to me are people who are prepared to make that next step. The next logical step for them
is to become senior student affairs officers. My job is to assist
them in achieving that goal. If they don’t want to do that, how
do we make them the best associate/assistant vice chancellors
that they could possibly be? You have to keep moving professionally. You cannot stand still.
Q: Do you find that individuals who have mentors are
more successful than individuals who do not?
I think it’s impossible to move up in your career without a
mentor. I suspect the people who are not advancing perhaps
have no one telling them, ‘This is what you should do and
this is how you should do it; this is where you should go and
this is who you should talk to.’ You need somebody in your
professional life to do that. You need a multiplicity of mentors
who can give you that kind of guidance. People who are not
exposed to that, who don’t have that, will have a much more
difficult time negotiating the system and the process. Just like
having an advanced degree is the only way that you are going
to move up in higher education, mentors are also key elements
in your ability to advance.
Q: You have been a great advocate and supporter of
the NASPA Undergraduate Fellows Program (NUFP).
How important are these types of programs?
I first became acquainted with the NASPA program when I
arrived at Spelman College and was asked to chair the advisory
committee. At that time it was singularly focused on minority students and getting them into the profession. The more
I knew about the program, the more I really supported the
concept. I started a program at Spelman, and we had a couple
of students each year involved in it. When I arrived at the
University of Arkansas, there was no program, but more and
more people said they would love to be mentors. The program
just grew like crazy on our campus. At one time we had as
many as 15 students in the program, and we had mentors for
every one of them. I carved a part of my budget to support it
and to make sure students got to conferences and were exposed
to the profession. We now have a strong alumni group and
we did get people into the profession, which is a test of faith.
It’s the best of all possible worlds. I see the fruits of our labor:
students who got the message, who embraced the profession,
who are in it, and who are moving forward.
If your senior student affairs officer is not engaged in the
program, it’s not going to happen. The SSAO at the institution has to say, ‘I’m going to support it both as a mentor and
as a budget officer.’ That’s a signal to the rest of the staff that
Q: What are the key qualities that have contributed to
your professional success?
In this profession, the first order of business is caring about
students. You really must have a passion for working with
students, and you must want to engage with them. It’s one
of the things that I have taught students who want to go into
the field. You can work around everything else, but it all really
stems from that one element—making a difference in students’ lives. It matters how they leave us, not how they enter
or what they come with. It is about how we engage with them
in between those two events—the coming and the leaving.
That’s what has kept me in this profession for 37 years.
Q: What advice would you give your peers in managing student affairs offices in the decades to come?
Have a passion for students, that is very clear. If students are at
the center of what you do and how you think and feel about
your work, they will anchor you and bring clarity to your
work. If I can’t see how something that I am doing is contributing to the environment that I want to create for successful
students at my institution, then I shouldn’t be here.
Q: As you prepare for retirement, what is your favorite memory from your student affairs work?
It’s been a long career with a lot of memories and a lot of
interactions. It always comes back to students for me. If I can
recount one instance with a student, it would be an experience at the University of Arizona. I was tutoring a young
African American man from Phoenix. In the course of tutoring you talk about all kinds of things, and he talked about
how everything on campus was a struggle. Ultimately he
dropped out of the university. I left Arizona in 1992, and I
went to Spelman for five years and came to the University of
Arkansas. I received a call from one of my former colleagues
who told me this individual was trying to find me. We got in
touch, and he told me about how he got himself together in
Phoenix and went back to the University of Arizona, finished
his program, and was now working for NASA. He wanted
to say thank you, and I was bawling at that point because
I thought the kid was lost. That’s probably a favorite thing
to look back on in my career because it is the essence of our
work. We’re very lucky if we get a card or something from a
student saying thank you. On a very lucky day, you will get
some feedback from one of your students. I didn’t appreciate
my undergraduate experience until I had been out of school
for 10 years. Then I could look back on it and see that it
made all the difference. LE
Khadish O. Franklin is a graduate intern at NASPA who was
mentored by Johnetta Cross Brazzell as an undergraduate at the
University of Arkansas.