OU Dean Of Students Finalists To Meet With Students In Athens

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Finalists for Ohio University's dean of students position are visiting the Athens campus this weekend for the final stage of the interview process.

Ryan Lombardi, vice president for student affairs, has invited the two out-of-town candidates to OU for student-only interviews and open-campus forums.

Currently, Jenny Hall-Jones serves as the university's interim associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students. She’s held the position since last June, and has been working fulltime at OU since 1996.

Hall-Jones met with students last week to discuss her plans for the position. The last two finalists, J. Malcolm Smith and Greg MacVarish, will wrap up discussions with students and the public this weekend.

The candidates each have distinct platforms and future plans, if hired.

Hall-Jones has been connected to the university since 1991. She graduated with three degrees from OU, and has since worked in residence life, the office of the vice president of student affairs and has served as assistant dean of students since 2009.

Hall-Jones says she was happy to fill the dean of students position while the university conducted an official search.

The search started with 11 prospects and a screening committee has narrowed it down to three finalists.

Since taking the interim role, she says she has really been playing two roles. If hired permanently, she said she would have more time to focus on the position at hand.

"When you’re an interim, you’re a maintainer. You’re maintaining the vision of the person before you. You’re just trying to get the day-to-day work done," she said. "I’d be able to build my own staff and start making some changes."

Hall-Jones said one of those changes would be focusing on the Suicide Prevention Committee she's trying to establish.

Since serving in the interim position, Hall-Jones says her office has been focusing on the designs for the housing master plan, an extensive development plan for the construction of several new residence halls throughout campus.

Like Hall-Jones, candidate J. Malcolm Smith is an OU graduate. Since completing his master's degree, he's spent 16 years working at universities and currently works as the assistant dean of students at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Smith has a background in judicial affairs and has worked with student governments, led orientations and dealt with external affairs for the University of Illinois at Chicago and John Carroll University.

Smith said he thinks the role of dean of students has two parts.

"I think it’s the right-hand, second person to Dr. Lombardi. You have to come here with ability to lead, the ability to get projects done, to be a good supervisor, a good steward of the money coming out of the budget because that’s money that’s coming out of the student’s pockets and it's taxpayer's dollars. That’s the administrative piece of it," he said. "I believe the more important part of this position is the dean of students’ part. That is, in my opinion, to be the number one student advocate for students on campus, to understand what they want, understand what they need and to be visible."

Smith says moving from the busy streets of Chicago to the quiet neighborhoods of Athens will not be a challenge, and that he looks forward to being a "somebody" in a small town.

"I'm excited to be out there with other student organizers and be out there with student athletes and attend intramural games and just be accessible in such a way that people know that they can come to you with concerns and ideas," he said.

Greg MacVarish, also visiting from Chicago, is the current associate vice president of student affairs at the Adler School of Professional Psychology.

MacVarish has over 24 years of experience working with universities and students. He said he was attracted to the position because he believes OU is a university that focuses on its students.

"It’s difficult to find institutions that work to live up to what their institution advocates," he said. "It’s pretty clear based on the research that I’ve done that OU really believes in those values and puts them front and center in the student experience, and to be able to work at a place that has a clear sense of mission and purpose is really important to me."

MacVarish said his philosophy is to meet students at their level.

"I want to always provide an open door with students in regards to them raising concerns and also hearing what’s going really well. The dean of students office should be a place where students start when they don’t know where to begin and where they go when they need assistance," he said.

Smith and MacVarish will visit with OU students on April 14, April 15 and April 16 at OU's Baker Center.