After seven months without a vice president for student affairs (VPSA) on Boston College’s campus, Barbara Jones arrived on July 1 to begin work in her new position.
“I was looking for something different, and when I got the call about BC and started doing some research on it,” Jones said. “I was really attracted to the fact that it was the student affairs work that I loved doing, but with this extra system of values on top of it that goes even deeper than we would normally go in student affairs at a public university.”
Jones earned her masters degree from Indiana University and then moved on to work in student affairs at the University of Memphis. She then worked as the director of student activities for eight years at Minnesota State University-Mankato, concurrently earning her Ph.D. in educational administration from the University of Minnesota. Jones spent 10 years at Ball State University in Indiana, and then took on a broader range of responsibilities-including working with adaptive athletics for students with disabilities-as the assistant chancellor of University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Most recently, she finished the 2012-13 academic year at Miami University of Ohio, where she had worked as the vice president of the division of student affairs since 2008.
Jones is not the only administrator at BC with ties to Miami University-athletic director Brad Bates served as Miami University’s athletic director from 2002 to 2012. According to Bates, he and Jones interacted regularly at Miami University, as they both reported straight to the university president and worked directly with students. Although Bates, who joined the University last October, was not initially aware that Jones was considering the VPSA position at BC, he said that he found it easy to speak highly of the school, and was pleased when she took the position.
“She’s been trying to develop relationships with as many people as possible, so she’s been very busy,” Bates said. He added that they have spoken fairly frequently since Jones began at BC, and anticipates that the two will continue to work closely together, calling her knowledge of student affairs and education “a tremendous resource” of which he plans to take advantage. “Barb Jones genuinely cares about students and is in the profession for very noble reasons,” Bates said. “I just think she’s a terrific addition to Boston College.”
University Spokesman Jack Dunn joined Bates in praise of Jones. “Barb Jones is a student-centered administrator with great energy, experience, and vision in student affairs that has energized her division,” Dunn said. “We are delighted to have her leading our student outreach and look forward to our students having an opportunity to work with her.”
Although Jones finished out the last academic year at Miami University, she accepted the position at BC at the end of April. “With the Jesuit, Catholic value system on top of what we were already doing, it really was attractive to me,” Jones said. “The scope of what I would be doing here, the reputation of the school, lots of good things about the students-I called Brad Bates and said, ‘Tell me about Boston College’ … he loves it here and was very complimentary. That was what interested me initially.” Jones said that as she got to meet people at the University, she saw things happening at BC that she thought were exciting, as well as areas in which she saw ways to improve.
One area Jones plans to begin work on right away is career services. The director’s position is currently open, and she would like to tailor the services so that they both complement the University’s philosophy and suit student needs.
“We want to take a real hard look at what career services is doing, how we’re providing services to students,” Jones said. “Can we find better ways to relate to alumni and get them more engaged with our current students as they start looking for jobs? Can we increase the number of internships that we’re offering? Career services, in the last five to 10 years, nationally, has become a really important element of what colleges are doing.”
Jones’ work in the coming years will also include addressing the issue of women’s low self-confidence that was highlighted by a study the Office of Institutional Research, Planning, and Assessment carried out last year.
“We’re looking at Kostka, because it’s our only all-female hall, to see what kind of programming things we can do there, but we need to find out more information from that study as to why the women feel less confident going out,” Jones said. “I have been talking to the Women’s [Resource] Center folks some, and I’ve been talking to Kelli Armstrong, the vice president of planning and assessment, who did the study. We’re definitely interested in that, and looking at what we can do to promote women in more leadership positions.”
In terms of diversity issues on campus, Jones has also met with the staff of the Office of AHANA Student Programs (OASP)-she mentioned that a new program on cultural competency will be launched in residence halls this year, and said that she plans to build on that going forward.
Over the summer, Jones also met with students from different groups on campus. She spoke with the RAs during their training, and also met with the sophomore facilitators of the Emerging Leaders Program (ELP). Additionally, she will be meeting with UGBC President Matt Nacier, A&S ’14, every other week during the school year, and plans to continue former VPSA Patrick Rombalski’s tradition of having dinner with students from various groups.
Students who are already highly involved, however, are not Jones’ only focus. She will not only be holding open office hours on Fridays, but also has plans to form a vice president’s advisory council, drawing from students with whom she would not normally interact.
“I get a lot of opportunity to interact with student leaders on campus, but what about the students who are members?” Jones said. “What about the students that may not be as engaged as leaders? I would love to be able to pull from that group of students and hear what their perceptions are.”
Overall, Jones is looking forward to interacting with students, and learning what changes at the University are most needed. “I’m interested in learning from [the students] how formation takes place, as they look at it, from the Jesuit, Catholic tradition, and how we can do more with that,” she said.