Office of Student Life Organization Update

August 11, 2020

Given the unprecedented pace of change on today's college campuses, it is more important than ever that Ohio State’s Student Life organization be strategically positioned as innovative, forward-thinking, flexible and proactively meeting the needs of our always-changing student body and those of our staff members.  

On Monday, August 10, Dr. Shivers announced a future vision for the Student Life organization that will align the division’s work and structure around six core areas of focus: 

  • Student Engagement and Support 
  • Health and Well-being
  • Residential Experience 
  • Academic Partnership and Career Success 
  • Belonging and Inclusion 
  • Administrative Excellence 

While these areas of focus are very consistent with the work that Student Life does, what is different from the current structure is that the portfolios will be aligned to create more and advanced synergies within the individual work teams, while offering a more balanced foundation and scope of work at the senior leadership level. The foundational concepts that directed the restructuring analysis included:

  • Aligning the organization with strategic priorities and emphasizing areas for development
  • Emphasizing function-based teams to improve coordination and empower action
  • Simplifying the organizational structure to increase efficiency
  • Establishing a better-balanced span of control
  • Setting the stage for professional development and more defined career paths
  • Administrative balance and cost management

Also, it is important to highlight that an intentional and sustained culture-strengthening effort will focus on: 

  • Appreciation 
  • Support  
  • Connection 
  • Care 

A deeper dive into the six core areas of focus

Rather than a vertical or horizontal structure, the new team design organizes work around functions and strategic directions. Supporting the structure is the expectation of consistent cross-office collaboration, reinforced by leadership engagement strategies and continued use of enhanced and outcomes-based practices. 

Below offers a closer look at each of the core areas: 

Student Engagement and Support: As has been shared far and wide, ‘Creating the Extraordinary Student Experience’ is the core mission of the Office of Student Life. The Student Engagement and Support group will ensure we are taking an innovative approach to our work with – and for – students and will continually seek data and ideas to help monitor and meet current and future student needs. The area will take the lead on all aspects of student campus engagement and programming, with an emphasis on leadership, service and resiliency. The departments and programs that will report to Dean of Students and Associate Vice President for Student Engagement and Support include: 

  • Ohio Union 
  • Parent and Family Relations 
  • Sorority and Fraternity Life 
  • Student Activities and Orientation 
  • Student Advocacy  
  • Student Conduct 

A new Leadership and Service area that will be overseen by an Executive Director of Leadership and Service, who will have a reporting line to Dr. Shivers, and will include: 

  • Buckeye Leadership Fellows 
  • Buck-I-SERV 
  • Keith B. Key Buckeye Social Entrepreneurship Program 
  • Leadership Development
  • OSU Votes
  • Pay It Forward
  • Student Philanthropy 

Health and Well-being: This area will lead all aspects of student health and wellness. The team will advance our commitment to student and staff well-being and ensure collaboration and consistency among Student Life units, as well as campus partners. The departments and programs that will report to the Associate Vice President for Health and Well-being will include: 

  • Counseling and Consultation Service 
  • Recreational Sports and Esports 
  • Student Health Services 
  • Student Wellness Center 
  • Programs that focus on Student Life staff well-being 

Belonging and Inclusion: It has never been more critical to create experiences and social engagement opportunities for all students and staff. To be successful, we must build structures, support and resources that foster – and lead to - a sense of belonging, which is critical to retention and persistence for students, and retention and engagement for staff members. This area is designed to create innovative and customized initiatives, as well as lasting and comprehensive programs that uphold and grow our commitment to inclusion, equity and diversity efforts. The unit will advance student and staff training and programming and will serve as campus liaisons and ambassadors. The departments and programs that will report to the Associate Vice President for Inclusion and Belonging will include:

  • Disability Services 
  • Multicultural Center 
  • Social Change 
  • Training and development
  • Programs that focus on Student Life Inclusion efforts 

Residential Experience: Core to Ohio State’s legacy and success is our residential experience. This team will define, create and realize the future of the student residential experience, on- and off-campus, and will envision the Residential Experience 2.0. The group will also advance the next innovations in dining.  The departments and programs that will report to the Associate Vice President for the Residential Experience include: 

  • Dining Services 
  • Housing Administration 
  • Off-Campus and Commuter Student Services 
  • Residence Life 

Academic Partnership and Career Success: The partnership between the academic and co-curricular units are crucial to helping students make the most of their comprehensive student experience. This area will ensure alignment between the Office of Academic Affairs and the Office of Student Life and advance critical career outcomes, including spearheading Careers 2.0 for Student Life. The unit will also inspire and oversee an environment of assessment and data-driven decisions. The departments and programs that will report to the Associate Vice President for Academic Partnership and Career Success include: 

  • Buckeye Careers 
  • Career Counseling and Support Services 
  • Center for the Study of Student Life 
  • Graduate and Professional Student Programs and Services 
  • Student Life’s Student Employment Experience (SEE) 
  • Second-year Transformational Experience Program (STEP) 
  • Programs that focus on digital student engagement        

Administrative Excellence: Organizational effectiveness, operational excellence and strategic communications are more than just buzz words. They are the cornerstone of strong and successful organizations, and the teams within this focus area will leverage our administrative structure for overarching collaboration, both within Student Life and also with university and community partners and supporters. The administrative operations will be split into two areas, the first that leverages the resources of fiscal management, technology services and facilities management. The departments and programs that will report to the Associate Vice President for Administration and Finance include: 

  • BuckID 
  • Budget and Planning 
  • Event and Conference Management 
  • Student Health Insurance 
  • Student Life Building Services 
  • Student Life Energy Management and Sustainability 
  • Student Life Environmental Services 
  • Student Life Facilities Operations 
  • Student Life Facilities Planning and Design 
  • Student Life Facilities Services 
  • Student Life Risk and Emergency Management 
  • Student Life Technology Services 

The other administrative area will focus on strategic engagement for the Office of Student Life, including the operations and strategic priorities for the Senior Vice President for Student Life. The departments and programs that will report to the Associate Vice President and Chief of Staff include: 

  • Student Life Communications and Marketing 
  • Programs and initiatives that focus on partner engagement and innovation

Student Life Development will continue to report directly to the Senior Vice President for Student Life.

A new beginning 

The announcement of this new, future vision for the Office of Student Life is just the beginning, and it will require filling several leadership positions. Over the past two years, the division has experienced a series of five executive level transitions, resulting in only one permanent placement (when Dr. Melissa Shivers joined the team in January 2020). Below are the positions that will need to be filled over time; the first three of which will be posted internally to Student Life on Friday, August 14, with other search processes to begin at a later date:

  • Dean of Students and Associate Vice President for Student Engagement and Support 
  • Associate Vice President for Well-being and Health 
  • Associate Vice President for Belonging and Inclusion  
  • Associate Vice President for the Residential Experience 
  • Associate Vice President for Academic Partnership and Career Success 
  • Executive Director of Leadership and Service 

Dave Wiseley has been asked to serve as Associate Vice President for Administration and Finance, and Kellie Uhrig has been asked to serve as Associate Vice President and Chief of Staff. 

While in the search process, Student Life’s interim leadership structure will remain in place. The team will transition to the new structure as positions are filled.