posted on: Thursday February 18, 2010
Valerie Ferdon ’12 / News Staff
Dealing with everything from roommate conflict to fixing leaky pipes, Steve Sears, former director of the Office of Residence Life, has been committed to improving the daily lives of students throughout his 12 years at Providence College. For the duration of the semester, he will have the opportunity to continue his service to students while acting as interim associate vice president of Student Affairs and dean of students.
The position was made vacant this winter as Chris Fortunato, hired in Feb. of 2008, stepped down to pursue a position at Harvard Kennedy School in Cambridge, Mass.
While Sears will serve as interim for the duration of the semester, according to Rev. Brendan Murphy, O.P., vice president of Student Affairs, the administration will begin a search process for a permanent dean of Students at the conclusion of the school year.
“With the departure of Dean Christopher Fortunato, the Student Affairs Division could not afford to have a vacancy in such an important position for an extended period of time,” said Murphy. “Over the years, I have worked closely with Dr. Sears and have always admired his commitment to Providence College and to our students.”
Named Dean of Residence Life in 2005, Sears’ will bring to Student Affairs four years of experience in leadership and decision making.
“One thing about Residence Life is that it seems like a lot of things are a crisis,” said Sears. “You have to think on your feet a lot, respond quickly, have correct answers, and use good judgment. I think that experience has really prepared me for this role to an extent.”
According to Murphy, it was exactly those skills that led to Sears’ appointment.
“I am very confident in Dr. Sears’ ability and leadership,” said Murphy. “He is a team player who values input and collaboration. I know he looks forward to working with students, faculty, and staff in his new interim capacity.”
Sears dedicated the last few years to providing students with a happy and healthy living experience at Providence College, and plans to put forth similar efforts while in his new position.
“I spent time in the military and spent time at all these different colleges but I am in awe at this opportunity,” said Sears. “Dean of Students – students, that is what it has always been about, to me. The students are the ones who make this college thrive and make this a wonderful place to live, work, grow, and learn.”
Student input is considered a driving force in changes made within the College. There is now a Student Life Advisory Board, which is a combination of student leaders and representatives from Student Affairs who meet to discuss ideas and thoughts about improving the College community. Sears acknowledged how he seeks input from all students, not the same few who seem to be featured often due to their involvement in Student Congress and other high-profile organizations on campus.
“For me, it is about being open to everyone,” said Sears. “I want to meet as many students as I can. We end up meeting with student leaders a lot—those students that are involved in clubs and organizations. Even good comes from meeting with students who go through our judicial process and student conduct. But I also want to meet that student who is just part of the community and not involved in a lot of things. I want to hear from them, what is their experience like here, what is their quality of life, how can we work together?”
Input, both positive and negative, will be welcomed from students in the upcoming months.
“What is important to me is being transparent, being open to criticism,” said Sears. “Dialogue is an essential part of this position, dialogue with everyone in the community.”
Sears has been working closely with the student body in the few short weeks he has been the dean of students. He specifically mentioned how great it was to be involved with Student Congress in the process of getting USA Today to be distributed on campus, and looks forward to future legislation.
Despite all of his qualifications and experience, he expressed how this time as interim will be a learning experience nonetheless.
“I would be naive to say that I don’t have a lot to learn,” said Sears. “I have a lot of growth and development ahead of me not only in this position, but in life in general. It has been a learning curve to a certain extent, but the support from Fr. Murphy and all our constituents has been so positive.”
There are no set details in regard to the search for a permanent dean of students, although Sears mentioned his interim position is scheduled to end in July.”I will keep the campus community informed with respect to the search process,” said Murphy. “As is customary, there will be student involvement in this process.”