BY NANCY GRUND
the career path to the senior student affairs officer (SSAO) position can be a long and winding road and, once the position is attained, the demands of the job can be close to overwhelming. As the profession has evolved in recent years, so has the number of women reaching leader- ship positions in the field. In this article, seven women SSAOs are interviewed about the challenges they faced moving ahead in their careers, the importance of mentoring, and the advice they offer aspiring SSAOs.
Interviewees include Cheryl;Callahan, vice chancellor for student affairs at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro;
Paulette;Dalpes, dean of student affairs at Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn, New York; Almeda;Jacks, senior
consultant with Keeling and Associates, LCC, and former vice president for student affairs at at Clemson University in South
Carolina; Barb;Jones, vice president for student affairs at Miami University, Ohio; Tyjaun;Lee, vice president for student
services at Prince George’s Community College in Largo, Maryland; and Lisa;Waits, former vice president of student services and
interim superintendent/president at Solano Community College in Fairfield, California.
Cheryl;Callahan:;Balancing career and family was my biggest
challenge. I passed up opportunities to be a vice chancellor or
vice president early in my career because my priorities were
my husband, who was well situated in his career, my children,
and our extended family.
Paulette;Dalpes:;From my first day of college until now,
there have been times when, as a first-generation college
student and graduate, I have struggled with the privilege of
going to college and working in a professional career. These
are opportunities that many in my family did not have. It
wasn't until I earned my doctorate that I finally believed
that I belonged in a professional role. Another challenge has
been the limited number of lesbian role models at this level
of the profession.
Almeda;Jacks:;As the first female vice president at Clemson
University, I felt that I was representing all the women at
Clemson. It took more than 100 years to get a female in an
executive role at Clemson. Women have complex issues to
work around, including different leadership styles, which can
make executive roles more difficult, especially if you are the
only female sitting around the table.
Tyjaun;Lee: Working with employees with generational differences was definitely a challenge for me. As a young vice
president, I had to learn that there are major challenges in
leading mixed generations.
Lisa;Waits:;The biggest challenge is gaining the necessary
knowledge and confidence to be an SSAO. Early on, I gained
in-depth experience with an integrated database that prepared
me to build enrollment management plans and mandated
reports from the ground up. That experience led to strong
partnerships with academic affairs and business services.