November 26, 2018
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Kenyon is creating a new position of vice president for student affairs with responsibility for leadership and administrative oversight of the Division of Student Affairs.
Dean of Students Henry “Hank” Toutain will continue in his role as dean with greater freedom to focus on specific student and family issues, conflict resolution, and problem solving. Toutain prefers to remain as dean, endorsing and embracing the change at the top of a diverse division that guides student life outside the classroom.
The College will launch the search for the vice president this summer, and more details about the search, the search committee, and the timeline will be shared. The vice president will serve on the Senior Staff.
Similar management models are in place at a number of Kenyon’s peer schools, with a chief administrator tending to budget and personnel issues, organization, and strategic direction, President Sean Decatur said. Development of Kenyon’s 2020 strategic plan indicates the need to better integrate the work of Student Affairs with the academic experience and other aspects of campus life, and the responsibility of steering that initiative will fall to the new vice president.
“My hope is that this will not only create a better balance in terms of the amount of work that already needs to be done but will also enable us to strengthen the integration of the student-life experience into the larger experience at Kenyon,” Decatur said. “Each of these is a full-time job.” The division covers Athletics, Campus Ministries, Career Development, the Health and Counseling Center, Housing and Residential Life, Multicultural Affairs, New Student Orientation and Community Programs, Student Activities, Student Employment, and Student Rights and Responsibilities.
Issues related to Title IX and regulatory compliance are growing in importance and are demanding of time and attention, Decatur added.
Toutain has distinguished himself as dean and would perform as well as vice president, Decatur said. “Hank has done a remarkable job,” he said. “He is committed to students actually being empowered to make their own decisions, and one of the things he has done so well is managing to guide and direct students without lecturing and being paternalistic.
“He is very good at having conversations with students as adults, so they feel like they are able to make their own decisions. At the same time, Hank is also very clear about consequences,” Decatur said. “Those same skills, of listening and being able to guide and support, have helped him do well in terms of managing his staff and working with colleagues. He’s been invaluable.”
Toutain joined Kenyon in 2009 after serving as vice president for student affairs and dean of students at Gustavus Adolphus College. “Given the two hats I wore previously, I would choose the role of dean of students any day of the week,” Toutain said. “Strategic planning, policy development, hiring and supporting staff, and building buildings are all necessary and important, and I’ve enjoyed doing those things as the chief student affairs officer for quite a few years.
“At the end of the day, however, what I find most rewarding, and why I ended up in student affairs in the first place, is the opportunity to help students figure things out, to be present and supportive during crises, and sometimes to engage in really difficult but very meaningful conversations,” Toutain said.
“I look forward to continuing to do this kind of work which I’ve found extremely rewarding and that I hope is of some use.”
The new vice president, Decatur said, will be expected to have an understanding of the round-the-clock residential experience and understand that, at Kenyon, students learn and develop outside as well as inside the classroom. “It will be important for someone to have a deep respect for students because I think that’s critical at Kenyon, as well,” Decatur said.
Top administrative skills will be matched by a vision “for what’s possible for Student Affairs at Kenyon and for the College in general.” Collaboration with other senior administrators, faculty and staff members across the campus will also be expected.
“There are some interesting possibilities for creative, strategic work,” Decatur said.