VP candidates hold open forums

Photo by Luke Henning, Assistant News Editor

Photo by Luke Henning, Assistant News Editor

by Luke Henning

San Diego State searches for new VP of Student Affairs

Following the retirement of 13-year Vice President for the Division of Student Affairs James Kitchen last spring, the San Diego State Office of the President assembled a search committee and put an ad on the Internet for potential candidates.

As of this week three finalists have been selected by the search committee: Eric Rivera, the acting vice president for Student Affairs; Jean Kim, the recently resigned vice president of Student Affairs at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; and Frank Lamas, vice president for Student Affairs and dean of students at The University of Texas at Arlington.

Office of the President Chief of Staff Andrea Rollins said once all three candidates have held open forums with students, faculty and staff the search committee will recommend one of the candidates to President Elliot Hirshman, who can then make a decision.

Jean Kim

Last Wednesday, Kim met with faculty and students during the first of a series of open forums for each of the candidates.

Kim’s family emigrated from Vietnam to the U.S. when she was young. As an Asian American she is an early beneficiary of affirmative action programs during the late 1960s.

“As a woman of color, college diversity is an issue especially close to my heart,” Kim said.

During her career in education spanning more than 30 years Kim said she has spent much of her time fostering student diversity with a variety of different programs. In 1989, while working as the assistant dean of graduate student affairs at Stanford University, Kim piloted a program that allowed graduate students to live in student housing with a same-sex partner. This was the first program of its kind in a university in the U.S.

Kim resigned from her last position at UMass, Amherst last year. Both she and the university refused to comment on the reason for her resignation. There was, however, some controversy during her last year at UMass.

According to the Massachusetts Daily Collegian, the school’s Graduate Student Senate voted no confidence in Kim in 2012 after she raised the fees for graduate student housing in an effort to open more housing for graduate students. The Graduate Student Senate was specifically upset that the price raise had been put into effect without the approval of students.

Although it is not clear whether or not this may have factored into her resignation, The Daily Collegian published several articles critical of her performance as vice chancellor of student affairs.

Despite Kim’s somewhat stormy past with UMass, Amherst she said that her 16 years of experience as an administrator in Student Affairs have given her enough experience to successfully lead at SDSU.

She said she plans to regularly meet with students in the dining areas to get to know students’ needs. She also plans to have a monthly dinner meeting with students at which she encourages them to voice any concerns they have with Student Affairs.

“I look forward to working with students at SDSU” Kim said.

Eric Rivera

After Kitchen’s retirement, Eric Rivera took on the mantle of acting vice president for Student Affairs. Rivera worked as the associate vice president of student affairs alongside Kitchen since 2006.

Photo by Jonathan Bonpua, Staff Photographer
Photo by Jonathan Bonpua, Staff Photographer

Originally from the Bronx, N.Y., Rivera has more than 20 years of education experience.

Rivera said his approach to the Division of Student Affairs is mainly research based. As the associate vice president for Student Affairs, Rivera spearheaded a research program aimed at determining which SDSU students were most likely to leave the university in the first two years.

When the data came in Rivera said he and his team identified commuters as the group with the least retention and turned his focus on this group of students,  targeting them through programs such as Casa Azteca.

Casa Azteca currently serves 200 commuter students at SDSU, Rivera said. The program mainly aims to build a commuter community and has gained interest from several other local universities, Rivera said.

By targeting specific groups, Rivera said Student Affairs can more effectively accomplish its goal on campus.

“It’s important we stick to the data or there’s a chance we will completely overlook a problem,” Rivera said.

For example, Rivera said prior to looking at the data his department had targeted undeclared students, but when more research was conducted on the topic they discovered that undeclared students actually had a significantly higher graduation rate than declared students.

During his open forum on Friday, Rivera also placed a special emphasis on SDSU being a research university.

“As a (California State University) it is what really distinguishes us from the rest,” Rivera said.

Rivera plans on utilizing the research aspect of the university through a graduate student mentor program that will target commuter students, who he said still need special attention.

Currently, the Division of Student Affair is collecting data on exchange students and have several student retention programs planned to launch next semester.


Photo by Luke Henning, assistant news editor