After 40 years in higher education, 27 as a Senior Student Affairs Officer (SSAO), and a change of Presidents, it was time for me to make a change. As such, I announced my retirement in July to be effective the end of August. My plan was to take some time off and then pursue a second career with a nonprofit program that serves low income, inner city youth as they complete high school and pursue higher education. Shortly after my announcement, (OK, literally the next day!) I received a call from Jan Walbert from Keeling Associates representing the NASPA Interim Executive program. I had placed my name with the NASPA program earlier in the summer but had not spoken with anyone prior to Jan’s call. In a confidential and professional manner, Jan spoke with me about an interim opportunity at a University that had a large population of first generation students and where over 60% of the students were Pell eligible. As we talked, she asked me to consider whether this population would be similar to the population I sought to serve in the nonprofit community and asked that I consider becoming a candidate for the position. To make a long story short, on August 8, two weeks after my retirement announcement, I began an interim position as Vice President of Student Affairs at a Catholic University in Chicago. ( My wife told me that I really stink at retirement!)
The Interim position fit the needs of the University to fill a critical senior staff position that had suddenly opened and where their president had recently announced her decision to retire at the end of the 2016-17 academic year. Strategically, the University needed to fill the leadership gap but did not want to make a senior staff decision for a new president. The interim opportunity also allowed me to continue to work without having to make a long term commitment. To date, the move has turned out to be a wonderful decision for me and I believe, for the University. The senior staff, the faculty, the student affairs staff, and the students have welcomed me with a warm heart and a desire to move the institution forward as a team. I believe that my experience as a SSAO has allowed me to have a positive impact on the University. On a personal note, I have been reinvigorated by the opportunity and I look forward to coming to work each and every day. Working at a Catholic university has reacquainted me with the special sense of community and mission that is part of a religiously affiliated institution.
I recommend an interim position to anyone who still feels they have something to offer and wants to have an impact on the world of Higher Education. Keeling & Associates and the NASPA Interim Program were very professional in helping me match my skills with this position and assisting me to explore the opportunity. Unlike other interim programs, you do not have to make a commitment to accept an offer prior to visiting the campus allowing you to assess the fit. Although there is no promise of a long-term relationship, it is always a possibility depending on the needs of the University and your desire to continue. For me, I have found the experience to be very positive.
Tony Campbell, Ph.D.