If “dean of students” is your title, your job description changes every day.
Just ask Stayner Landward BS’70 MS’73 PhD’80, the U’s current dean of students.
Lost students? (“I haven’t heard from my son in four days. Do you know where he is?”) Angry students? (“I’m failing economics because my professor doesn’t like me.”) Confused students? (“You mean there are deadlines for tuition payments?”
Ask the dean.
Thirty-two years at the U, the last seven as dean, have given Landward an invaluable institutional memory, a generally unflappable demeanor, and a studied perspective on how the student experience has changed over the years. “The stakes are higher now,” he says. “The competition is keener.”
Landward says several factors have increased the pressure University students face: higher tuition costs; more college graduates competing for jobs; more hours spent working, often to provide for a family; and the rise and fall of the economy (which affects the number of recruiters on campus).
“When I was a student [at the U], the focus was on college as an educational experience, which prevailed over future employment,” he says. Today, he notes, it’s harder to find a job in the desired field, so students come to campus already thinking about the workplace—and feeling the pressure.
For Landward himself, the campus morphed into the workplace years ago. He interned at the admissions office while pursuing a master’s in educational psychology, helping to develop the first academic advising center at the U. He eventually became director of academic advising, then director of admissions, and earned a doctorate in social work along the way. His academic area of emphasis—marriage and family counseling—has surely helped him deal with overloaded students.
But U of U students are still, well…students, exploring academic and social issues in a new, more diverse, setting. So Landward offers them the same advice he gives his own children: “Expose yourself to the diversity of thought and culture available here,” he says. “Be prepared and open to having your traditional thoughts and ideas challenged. If those beliefs are based on sound values, you’ll come 360 degrees back to them, but instead of borrowing them, as you were doing, they’ll be yours.”
He adds, “Be open to study-abroad possibilities. Get involved in extracurricular activities, whether it’s sports, service, religion, whatever. And look for leadership opportunities.”
In fact, Landward says that connecting students with those types of opportunities is central to the role of the dean’s office. “Most people think the dean’s job is to address disciplinary matters, but it’s really to be an advocate for community on campus,” Landward says. “I spend most of my time on campus advocacy and leadership issues—everything from diversity scholarships to Stop-the- Hate workshops. We want to create a community here.”
Still, crises and disciplinary issues also make their way to his office, everything from incidents of discrimination to financial problems to traumatic personal events. One of the hardest was the stabbing death of U theater student Amy Quinton in 1999. “It was very difficult,” he says, “but I’m glad that we could find ways to support her family,” including a special Commencement ceremony at which Quinton’s parents accepted her diploma.
Landward’s open-door policy means that a crisis—or a triumph—can walk in at any time, which, he says, is what being a student advocate is all about. “I love the satisfaction of dealing with challenging issues,” he says. “Our team really works to educate students. If you just clobber students, they only learn not to be caught. We want to work toward understanding, for a lifetime change.”
With the departure of J. Bernard Machen, now serving as president of the University of Florida, Dr. Lorris Betz was appointed interim president of the University of Utah, effective Jan. 1, 2004. Betz is currently the University’s senior vice president for health sciences, dean of the School of Medicine, and CEO of the University of Utah Health System. He will serve as interim president until a new president is appointed later in 2004.
Betz began at the University in 1999 and also holds faculty appointments in the Department of Pediatrics and the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy.
During the interim period, Dr. David J. Bjorkman, currently senior associate dean of the School of Medicine, will serve as the interim dean of the School of Medicine.
How has the U of U student experience changed? Or has it? Continuum asked former ASUU presidents what the campus was like in their day.
Earl Wunderli BA’56 JD’59 1956
John Pingree BA’64
Randy Dryer BS’73 JD’76
Jacque Morgan King BS’89
Tamara Taylor BA’95
Ben Lowe BS’03
William D. Cocorinis, 81, BS’57, longtime instructor of Modern Greek in the Dept. of Languages and Literature and a 1998 recipient of the Outstanding Adjunct Faculty Award.
C. Robert Peterson, 71, celebrated baritone whose distinguished performing career included more than 100 productions with Pioneer Theatre Company.
Thomas G. Stockham Jr., 70, professor of electrical engineering and computer science (1968-1994) who helped create the computer science department and was internationally recognized for his work in digital recording.
Elizabeth Haglund, 89, who served the U for 29 years,
first as executive director of public relations and later as special assistant
to the president (Chase Peterson).