Purdue announces search for vice president for student affairs

January 19, 2010 Amy Patterson Neubert

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University officials announced Tuesday (Jan. 19) that a national search is under way to replace Thomas B. Robinson, vice president for student services, who announced internally last summer his plans to retire at the end of the current fiscal year on June 30.

G. Christine Taylor, vice provost for diversity and inclusion, will chair the search committee for the position, which will be renamed vice president for student affairs. Taylor said on-campus interviews should take place in April.

The following individuals are serving on the search committee: Danita M. Brown, associate dean of students; John K. Cox, chief of police; Sally A. Hastings, associate professor of history; L. Tony Hawkins, dean of students; Adam J. Kline, president of Purdue Student Government; Andrew K. Koch, director of student access, transition and success programs; Christopher D. Munt, coordinator of student diversity services; Susan L. Prieto-Welch, professor of educational studies and director of Counseling and Psychological Services; Mary A. Sadowski, associate dean of the College of Technology; Maryann Santos de Barona, dean of the College of Education; Richard Severe, graduate research assistant in the Department of English; Julie K. Talz, director of Residential Life; and Alan Dale Whittaker, associate dean and director of academic programs in the College of Agriculture.

This vice president position will oversee a variety of areas from student health and recreational sports to student services computing. Student affairs provides additional learning opportunities through co-curricular activities, 81 Greek chapters, 12 cooperative houses, 875 registered student organizations, volunteer programs, three ROTC units, bands and orchestra, choral ensembles in Purdue Musical Organizations, and Purdue Convocations.

Thomas Robinson

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"Tom Robinson dedicated the last 12 years to making sure that the university's student affairs office provides the foundation for the success of all Purdue students," said Purdue President France A. Córdova. "Students' interactions with their campus environment shape their attitudes and readiness to learn, and thanks to Tom's guidance, Purdue has offered a quality university experience for thousands of students."

For example, Purdue has been working to help boost retention and graduation rates. Under Robinson's leadership, Boiler Gold Rush, a Purdue student access, transition and success program, has received national praise for helping students acclimate and succeed on campus.

Robinson also has overseen recent capital improvement projects such as the new drill field for the band, plans for a new Purdue Musical Organizations building, a new crew boathouse, and major renovations and expansion of the Recreational Sports Center that will begin in April.

In August, U.S.News & World Report included Purdue in its list of 24 public universities that offer the most outstanding first-year experience programming in the nation. The same month, Princeton Review quoted a student as saying: "Purdue boasts an 'absolutely amazing' freshman orientation program."

"Tom and his staff have been instrumental in laying the groundwork so we can improve student retention," said Randy Woodson, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost. "Purdue is known for its academic programs and rigor, but part of what makes this university a good fit for so many students is the resources and initiatives that student affairs offers."

Student affairs also supports a variety of students each year, including more than 1,300 students with disabilities through the Disability Resource Center and more than 13,000 students and alumni with career planning and job search assistance through the Center for Career Opportunities. The Office of Student Activities and Organizations advises Purdue Student Government.

"I am very proud that these areas and programs continue to benefit such a diverse group of students," Robinson said. "Students spend more time out of class than they do in class, so it's essential that we provide the best opportunities for students to be engaged.

"Our staff members are educators first and foremost, and our work begins with a commitment to the uniqueness of each student. This principle guides us as we assist students in making important decisions affecting their academic and personal lives. I will miss this involvement."

Robinson came to Purdue in 1998 from the University of Massachusetts Amherst where he served as vice chancellor for student affairs. He also has been the chief student affairs officer at five other colleges and universities, and he has taught at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. He received a bachelor's degree from Juniata College and earned his master's and doctoral degrees from Penn State University.

Robinson also is active in state and national professional organizations, including serving as president of the Indiana Student Affairs Association. He also is chair of the Purdue Community Partnership Team in collaboration with West Lafayette.

Robinson is an honorary member of Iron Key, Mortar Board, Alpha Lambda Delta, Golden Key National Honor Society, the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and Tau Beta Sigma, and he serves as a Purdusire for the Purdue Varsity Glee Club. In April 2009 he received The Block "P" Award from Purdue's Department of University Bands, and in November 2009, he was designated a Distinguished Old Master at Purdue.

Writer: Amy Patterson Neubert, 765-494-9723, apatterson@purdue.edu 

Sources:  Thomas Robinson, 765-494-5776, trobinson@purdue.edu

                   G. Christine Taylor, 765-494-5928, taylorgc@purdue.edu

                   France A. Córdova, president@purdue.edu

                  Randy Woodson: Contact Rebecca Franklin, administrative assistant to the provost, 765-494-6835, rfranklin@purdue.edu