News, On Campus

VP of Student Affairs Talks Challenges, Plans for Future at BC

Shawna Cooper-Gibson, vice president of student affairs, said there are four challenges that “come in rotation” on her desk.

“The challenges [are] around sexual assault, around bias, around alcohol misuse, and around mental health,” Cooper-Gibson said.

In a roundtable talk on Wednesday, co-hosted by the AHANA Pre-Law Student Association and Boston College Mock Trial, Cooper-Gibson discussed how students can help foster a positive BC experience for the greater community, one that enhances BC’s strengths while still addressing challenges the University faces.

Cooper-Gibson said the intelligence, school spirit, and collaborative partnerships she sees at BC can all help enhance student life on campus. She then listed three additional traits she said can contribute to student success.

“There’s a trifecta,” Cooper Gibson said. “First and foremost, academics—y’all get your degrees. Second, we’re a Jesuit Catholic institution, so I want you to have some level of spiritual formation … and then third … I want you to have fun.”

Cooper-Gibson said she will introduce improved academic planning for freshmen in the fall, explaining how she wants all students, no matter their major, to have academic planning similar to that offered in the Carroll School of Management through Portico—a business ethics class for all freshmen in CSOM.

She also stressed the importance of freshmen supporting student-athletes and the greater BC community.

“I don’t need you to go to an athletic event, but I do want you to support student-athletes,” Cooper-Gibson said. “It’s how you choose your own adventure and identify those key experiences.”

Cooper-Gibson emphasized the importance of creating close ties among the first-year students, explaining how she plans to adapt the Week of Welcometo accomplish this.

“We’re keeping all the first-year students together by floor over the entire weekend,” she said. “I’m going to have you with your floor because your floor is your family. … There are people that you’re not going to agree with, but you have to respect people, and I think that’s what’s missing. You know, I’ve heard about signs being torn down. That’s not acceptable, but the first battle in that is engaging in conversation and getting to know one another.”

Cooper-Gibson said she hopes to partner with student groups to facilitate conversations on subjects including identity, diversity, ethnic heritage celebrations, and accessibility and disabilities during the Week of Welcome.

“Part of the reason that we’re doing the opening weekend programming is because, how many of y’all did the DiversityEdu module?” Cooper-Gibson said. “That’s not the way you all learn about diversity, but what I felt like I was doing an HR training.”

Everyone can engage with themes surrounding diversity, Cooper-Gibson said, as there are types of diversity beyond race, gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation.

“I’m the youngest in my family,” Cooper-Gibson said. “I’m also the shortest in my family. I became very scrappy very quick, and that speaks to my identity too. And so there’s different pieces of which people can tell their stories.”

At the end of the talk, Cooper-Gibson welcomed questions and conversation with around 30 students who attended the roundtable.

Going forward, Cooper-Gibson said she wants to cultivate a collaborative environment with students, hoping to improve the BC experience through student feedback.

“And so really, one of my next steps is actually working with you all,” Cooper-Gibson said. “What are the things that you want to see your freshman year, your sophomore year, your junior, senior year and really building that out?”

May 1, 2022