Making the transition between institutions and senior student affairs officer (SSAO) roles comes with its fair share of “opportunities” (acknowledging how we avoid saying “challenges” professionally anymore while also embracing my top Strength Finder characteristic of “positivity”). Thus was my recent experience making the move from a small, private university to a large public over the past six months. The landscape within higher education is changing incredibly quickly — be it matters involving social justice to fiscal constraints — each day presents more complex tasks and initiatives to be accomplished. For me, this took place when I first walked into my office — developing an interim reporting structure while dealing with administrative-level vacancies

While several vacancies could be addressed by internal promotions to permanent or interim roles, one in particular involved the impending retirement of our director of Student Health Services within the first two months of my arrival. This combined with a desire to bide time for further reflection on the more permanent divisional structure and need to better understand the operation and direction of the health services department caused me to pause and seek an alternative approach to filling the director position. So, “Who You Going to Call?” The answer was quick and obvious based on my knowledge of NASPA resources and the Interim Executive Placement Services (IEPS) in partnership with Keeling & Associates (K&A). Through a few phone conversations and several follow up email messages, one of K&A’s senior associates was able to assist with the following:

  1. Clarify immediate and future needs for the department and division of student affairs in relation to the position.
  2. Identify the competencies and strengths which would determine the level of experience required to take on the role.
  3. Determine potential duration for the role.

Within three weeks, I was provided three viable candidates for consideration, held screening Skype interviews, brought two of those candidates for on-campus interviews and secured a highly qualified and seasoned practitioner having had experience at the director and senior student affairs officer level, and someone who was willing to start within a week of the campus interview. The dynamic environment within higher education requires senior student affairs officers to utilize innovative approaches to managing operations. Utilizing interim placement services can be added to SSAO’s options as they wonder about the next steps in both their career and in life.


Levester Johnson, Ed.D.