UM’s Whitely Takes Reins as NASPA Board Chair

Vice President for Student Affairs Patricia A. Whitely is the first UM administrator to chair NASPA’s board of directors.

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CORAL GABLES, Fla. (March 19, 2014) — As a graduate student in South Carolina 32 years ago, Patricia A. Whitely never envisioned she would one day ascend to the primary leadership role of the national organization that serves as the voice for her field. But on Tuesday, with family, friends and colleagues looking on, Whitely officially took the reins of NASPA’s Board of Directors, delivering an inauguration address in which she outlined her goals for the association dedicated to the student affairs profession.

“There is no doubt that higher education is under a microscope and rapidly changing,” Whitely, the University of Miami’s vice president for students affairs, said in Baltimore, Maryland, where NASPA (Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education) entered the fourth day of its annual conference.

Speaking to student affairs administrators and staffers from across the nation, Whitely said online learning, technology initiatives, student mental health, and campus safety and security are just some of the “complex and difficult” issues facing higher education, and that it is essential for NASPA to be involved in decisions that affect the profession.

“Too often, laws and policies have been formulated without our voice, yet our campuses view us as the experts, and we are the staff expected to conform to and abide by these policies,” Whitely explained. “NASPA needs to be at the table when rules are changed or shaped by lawmakers.”

A recent invitation for the Washington, D.C.-based association to join the discussion on the Violence Against Women Act is a step in that direction, she said.

Whitely, who has instituted innovative, new strategies to enhance student life during her 17 years as a student affairs vice president, is the first administrator in UM’s history to become NASPA board chair. She succeeds Laura Wankel, vice president for student affairs at Northeastern University, and will serve a one-year term. Last year Whitely received NASPA’s Scott Goodnight Award for Outstanding Performance as a Dean, an award named in honor of the organization’s founding board chair.

During her speech, Whitely pledged to work with NASPA’s 26 Knowledge Communities, six regions, and other special programs and initiatives, calling them the “heart and soul” of the organization.

She said NASPA will explore ways to improve its relationship with and support of community colleges, which she described as making “significant contributions to higher education.”

Whitely detailed continuing a dialogue on the academic preparation necessary for student affairs professionals to remain responsive to the demands of their profession and exploring partnerships with key organizations such as the Association of American Colleges and Universities as other objectives of her term.

She said NASPA’s strategic plan, “Advancing Leadership, Shaping Change,” will be updated and revised during the board’s summer meeting in New Orleans.

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Pat Whitely holds a customized gavel, carved in the shape of a football and painted in Hurricane orange and green, to mark her one-year term as chair of NASPA’s Board of Directors.

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