By David Simpson
A stint as an RA in her college residence hall opened Vicki Williams' eyes to the possibility of a career in higher education.
She held fast to that vision. This month, Williams was named dean of students and associate vice president of engagement at Old Dominion University. She succeeds Don Stansberry, who is now vice president for student engagement and enrollment services.
"I am very excited to officially welcome Dr. Williams as the dean of students and associate vice president," Stansberry said. "She brings many years of experience to the position and a passion for helping students succeed. I look forward to her leadership as we continue to focus on ensuring every student walks across the graduation stage."
Williams had been interim dean since February 2021. Originally from Cleveland, she holds a Bachelor of Arts in individual and family studies and a Master of Education in community counseling from Kent State University. She earned a Ph.D. in organizational leadership from Regent University.
As she started her new job, Williams answered a few questions from ODU News.
What was your reaction to the appointment and what are you looking forward to?
I am excited and honored to serve as the next dean. My predecessor was amazing in this role. He had great connections with students and was a strong advocate for their needs. I have learned a lot from him, and I'm excited to continue to advocate for students while providing vision and support to staff. I believe a vibrant and motivated workforce helps to build the type of campus community that is committed to helping students succeed. Next month will be my 18th year at ODU. This appointment allows me to continue to build connections with our students and to work collaboratively with various campus partners to create a memorable college experience for our students based on their curricular and co-curricular engagement.
What does your role as dean and associate VP entail?
Providing vision and support to develop multidimensional engagement opportunities to cultivate in students a sense of belonging, positive social-emotional well-being and leadership skills.
What has been your special focus as the interim dean, and will that change?
Maintaining our focus on caring for our students and staff as they navigate unprecedented challenges associated with the impact of the pandemic, financial strain, and personal stressors. This focus will continue, along with ensuring our goals continue to align with VP Stansberry's vision for the division.
What drew you to a career in higher education?
I was first introduced to higher education as a career during my days as an RA. I had a great experience. It was an opportunity to help other students, to celebrate them when milestones were met, to be there for them when a crisis or a hurdle arrived. I credit my hall director, Patty O'Toole, for being instrumental in showing me the possibilities and seeing leadership skills within me. Many of the enjoyable moments I had serving students as an RA still hold true today, just on a larger scale.
What are you most passionate about?
Being a strategic leader devoted to developing staff to their fullest potential - so that they see their role in helping students succeed no matter where they show up on the org chart. As a first-generation student myself, student success as measured by the completion of a degree is always most important. Our ability to care as an institution by doing our due diligence to help students find their path to success is imperative. For a student to walk away with a degree is life-altering for many. It is an outcome that personally resonates with me.
What is your vision of student support?
To create a culture of care on our campus to support our students. I view it as a web of support where staff and faculty are equipped not only to make referrals but to be in position to offer a level of support and resources to students who view them as a safe place to communicate their needs.