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New Dean of Students Sets Priorities
Named the UA's dean of students in October, Keith Humphrey has set his priorities for the UA division that oversees all things related to academic integrity and engagement.
In the more than one dozen years Keith Humphrey has worked at the University of Arizona, he has dealt with the gamut of student issues and experiences.
Humphrey has facilitated student orientation sessions and engaged students in formal and informal leadership work.
He's helped appease tensions between roommates. Admitted students into the UA and helped them find jobs? He's done that. And he's overseen the mediation of student code violations.
But recently having been appointed the UA's dean of students, Humphrey said it is the last example on that list that is more readily and most often associated with his office and his work.
And he's working to change that.
Appointed to the deanship in October, Humphrey has been working to reenvision and redefine the work of the office, one responsible for advocating for students while over overseeing the enforcement of code of conduct policies and procedures.
"I see a lot of our work being about encouraging responsibility and producing responsible citizens," Humphrey said, adding that the focus now is translating that mission into improvements in policy and practice.
"It's great to design a process that works well for 30,000 students, but it also is important to develop processes that work well for one student," he added.
Part of the initiative is to oversee other units and programs while encouraging interdisciplinary collaboration between them, said Humphrey, also the UA assistant vice president for student affairs.
In the time since his appointment, Humphrey's office has taken administrative oversight of the Graduate and Professional Students Council, Associated Students of the University of Arizona and Veterans Education and Transition Services.
"There needs to be a stronger focus on students and their families, and a very open-minded approach to helping them," said UA Vice President for Student Affairs Melissa Vito.
Among Humphrey's major incentives are the health and safety of the student body.
Another is in transforming the office's image from its traditional association with code of conduct violations to one that maintains a more collaborative level of engagement and support with students, no matter what the topic.
That involves expanding the mission around student advocacy and collaborative work with the UA faculty while more readily engaging students in processes where they can be more actively involved in promoting diversity, academics and social responsibility, Humphrey said.
For that reason, he holds weekly office hours – 4-5 p.m. on Mondays in Room 203 of Old Main – encouraging UA undergraduates and graduate students to visit.
And they do, without reservation. Some visit to talk about academic issues, personal challenges, or just because they were encouraged to do so.
"I want to offer a place that students can place trust in," Humphrey said.
To do so also requires being more accessible to students and more readily involving them in the decision-making processes that directly affect them, he said.
"We want to be a place students seek out and bring new ideas on how to improve the University, and also to be a resource," Humphrey said, adding that he also communicates via his Facebook page, Dean Humphrey, and is envisioning new collaborations between his office and with faculty members and peer mentors.
Humphrey first came to the UA in 1998 to serve as the hall director for Arizona Sonora Residence Hall. In 2003, he began his doctoral work in higher education and graduated in 2005.
"All things I have done touch on the student experience," said Humphrey, also an assistant professor of practice and master's program coordinator for the UA's Center for the Study of Higher Education.
"I've recruited students. I've lived in the residence halls. I've chaired commencement and worked with students looking for jobs through Career Services," he said. "I have been involved with students' lives at all points of their career here."
Today, he also serves as president of the American College Personnel Association, ACPA, a major international student affairs organization based in the U.S. Last year, the ACPA Foundation named Humphrey a Diamond Honoree for his career-long contributions to higher education.
It is Humphrey's long-standing record of service, his involvement on and off campus and his devotion to students that resulted in his appointment.
"In a lot of dean of students positions, you want someone who has worked across multiple areas because the position in one that has a very specific purpose," said Vito, also one of the UA's former dean of students.
"The dean of students is really an expert on what students experience here, and we're that student focus back front and center," Vito added.
Humphrey has worked with the office since 2006, having taken the assistant dean position with oversight of the Parents and Family Program. In 2008, he was appointed associate dean, then assistant vice president in 2009.
"He's done a lot of things that have given me a sense of the energy level he would bring and how he would approach things," Vito said, noting that Humphrey has helped to expand some of the UA's retention programs and campus orientation sessions.
"He's a creative thinker and a good problem solver – all things that led me to believe that he would be a perfect dean," Vito said, adding that the position is about solving problems, but it also is about more than that.
"Student life on campus is an important part of why students come here and why they choose to stay," she added.
Humphrey said has remained within higher education and at UA because "I love the energy students bring," said Humphrey, also a father of three. He and his partner, Brett, have three boys: Robby, Isaiah and Owen, who will be a UA freshman in the fall.
"I love working with students. I love that we have the largest student section in the Pac-12. And I love bringing people to see the campus to see our students," Humphrey said. "It's a great place to do this work."