Vice President for Student Affairs
Purdue University is an academic community whose major activities are learning, discovery, and engagement. Engagement occurs off-campus and represents connection and involvement with constituents and communities - locally, statewide, nationally, and globally. Public/university partnerships are defined by mutual respect for what each partner brings to the table. Discovery is research, scholarship, and creative activity that reveals new knowledge. Discovery activities take place most often in laboratories, libraries, and the field. Learning occurs in countless encounters among students, faculty, staff, and administrators in classrooms and labs, residence halls, fraternities and sororities, cooperative houses, recreational and athletic facilities, theaters and concert halls, union, cultural center, libraries, studios, art galleries, and other locations in the Greater Lafayette area.
Student Affairs seeks to relate to this learning and to support the overall mission of the institution in some very practical ways. In partnership with all members of the campus community, we promote efforts to achieve educational equity and multiculturalism. We strive to improve the recruitment, retention, and graduation rates of our students. We offer services including financial aid, academic record keeping, support for organized student housing units, a learning resource center, programs of physical and mental health care and information, and assistance in removing both physical and psychological barriers to college. We hold a significant concern for the emotional and physical safety and welfare of students. Our broad range of support and extra-curricular programs enhance student development and embrace the philosophy of life-long learning.
Staff members within Student Affairs 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. We believe, as do faculty, that students need to be active participants in the learning process and that the best learning takes place in situations where a balance of challenges and support exists. The developmentally-based learning which occurs in the myriad of activities and opportunities supported by Student Services is an important lifetime complement to the discipline-based learning that occurs in the classroom. Opportunities for this guided learning abound at Purdue in residence halls, 67 Greek chapters, 12 cooperative houses, more than 800 registered student organizations, volunteer programs, three ROTC units, bands and ensembles, choral groups, the career center, convocations and lectures, and the many other activities, seminars, workshops, and programs which promote and recognize this out-of-class learning.
And for this guided learning to be meaningful - in other words, to really have an effective student affairs program - staff members must function as a team on behalf of students. It is critically important for staff members to be supportive of each other, and there must be regular and open communication. Collaboration and cooperation are essential, and partnerships are valuable. We must all have a sense of the pulse of the campus, so that potential problems can be anticipated and addressed, and student needs can be met.
Purdue has many wonderful qualities and traditions that have served the University well for many years. Indeed, many of these qualities and traditions must be nurtured so they will continue to serve us well in the future. However, as Purdue positions itself in the 21st Century and The Next Level: Preeminence, we must find a balance between the qualities, traditions, and programs that should be preserved while initiating substantive change in other areas to strengthen our internal business practices and administrative processes. For example, the implementation of new technologies and integrated computing systems, will enable us to operate more efficiently and effectively. This is absolutely necessary if Purdue is to remain competitive and one of the world’s leading universities. We must also aim toward a greater sense of community and a greater connectivity inside and outside the University. All members of the Purdue community have a contribution to make toward this effort, and by the very nature of our work, we in Student Services have a significant leadership opportunity.
We must continue to review and evaluate our services and programs as we provide substantive opportunities for engagement, leadership, and learning which are complementary to classroom and discovery activity. We must seek ways to make Purdue more attractive and personal to prospective students, to support currently enrolled students and faculty, and to foster in students a positive identification with the University which will hopefully result in a valued college experience and long-term alumni support.
Dr. Melissa E. Exum
Vice President for Student Affairs