Following is the full text of the prepared remarks delivered by incoming Vice Provost for Student Affairs Susie Brubaker-Cole at the Fall Student Affairs Forum: “Kicking Off a New Academic Year,” on Sept. 20.
Thank you for your warm welcomes today and throughout my first week here on campus. It has been exhilarating to become a part of this division and this university. Every moment, I gain a deeper understanding of the core commitments and values in this truly unique community.
As I think about what you all are thinking about, I imagine that there is some anticipation to hear as early as possible what my vision is and where I want to take the division. I do, naturally, have a set of initial thoughts and ideas. But I also want to be realistic here and note that most ideas I could put forth now -- without more extensive listening and learning about the work of the division and university partners — is at really high risk of being half-baked. In my experience, the strongest visioning always derives from deep engagement with context, place, history and people. So, rather than put forward half-baked ideas, I’d like to give you a view into the thought processes, values and first areas of attention that are animating my first weeks here on campus.
To begin, I’d like to share what it was that made me want to come to Stanford – what I saw that made me decide with great enthusiasm to join Stanford at this particular moment in its history:
A commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion
First among my most deeply held professional and personal values and priorities is an unwavering commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in all aspects of our work. This was my deepest area of personal growth and professional commitment at Oregon State University, and I consider diversity and inclusion to be my most important ongoing journey as a citizen and a leader. The diversity of the Stanford community is rich, broad and deep, but more importantly, I have observed real actions on the part of Stanford leaders to ensure that all community members experience a deep sense of belonging and have ongoing opportunities to encounter and learn from difference.
I also feel confident that this university is committed to acting in the service of a greater good for society and the natural environment. This is a university with a profound and renewed mission of purposefulness. I want to be a part of this mission.
Student Affairs as an essential contributor
Another thing that drew me back to Stanford was that I saw unambiguous signs that Stanford was not just open to, but eager to ensure that Student Affairs be an essential contributor to the educational experience of all students. During my interviews and my own research, I saw here a deep appreciation for the importance of out-of-the-classroom experiences in the overall educational experience. I am committed to fostering meaningful coherence and helping to create openings for us to advance this work with our academic and other partners across the university.
University-wide Long-Range Planning
At this particular moment, Stanford’s current Long-Range Planning effort offers a unique starting point as a full university community to think critically about where we are and what the future needs from us. This is a place where a very broad range of perspectives have value in helping chart the next era of excellence and where the seeds of innovation can be sown at any level.
My listening tour
While that gives you a window into why I decided to come to Stanford, I’d like to leave you with a few themes that you can expect to appear frequently during my first months here.
As New Student Orientation and New Graduate Student Orientation wrap up, I’m going to be embarking on a listening tour to learn as much as I can about the division and our key partners. In doing so, I’ll be seeking to learn not only how things are but WHY things are and what possibilities people see lying before us. So, there will be a significant future focus to my line of inquiry. This is critical because today’s students are very different from those of 10 years ago, and we have learned a great deal already about how the dominant culture and practices of universities have not created a welcoming and supportive environment for all students. It is our responsibility to re-center our university to create a truly inclusive and diverse set of student experiences. There may be some catch-up to do – it’s hard to keep up, much less stay ahead. But I also want us to be proactive and to think about what is on the horizon that will require us to adjust our course now to ensure that we are in fact realizing our ideals of inclusion and equity.
Having our house in order
Every department has a set of core functions that lie at the heart of its purpose and that must be accomplished in a quality way in order to best support our students. Of course, I want our division to innovate and be creative in how we design and deliver services and educational programs. We must innovate to meet the needs of our student body, which, again, is very different from the student body of five or 10 years ago. But knowing that our core functions are carried out with excellence is, for me, a precondition for innovation. I call this “having our house in order.” I greatly look forward to working with all of you to make sure that our houses are in top order so that we can have confidence that we are best serving our students and making best use of our resources so we can innovate with confidence and capacity.
Student Affairs is not an island
Finally, you will also observe me looking very closely at our roles within the larger university. Student Affairs is not an island on its own or a separate part of the bigger picture; we are a dynamic set of programs and services that constantly interact with other parts of the ecosystem. This is true within our division – as well as within the university. We will foster the greatest outcomes for our students when we actively seek partnerships and see our work through the lens of our connections to the greater whole.
Thank you again
I hope that these initial reflections give you a sense of the lenses through which I’ll be approaching our collective work and the values that will help shape our future as vital contributors to Stanford’s educational mission. I simply can’t share enough about how excited I am to be a part of Student Affairs, to work with our critical partners, and, maybe most importantly, to understand our students and how we can help them to thrive to their fullest at Stanford.
Thank you again for your warm welcomes, and please say hello when you see me across campus!