Following the departure of former Dean of Students and Vice President of Student Affairs Kory Vitangeli on Sept. 2, the University of Indianapolis Student Affairs Office is undergoing a number of changes. Vice President, Chief Inclusion Officer, Interim Vice President for Student Affairs and (now) Dean of Students Amber Smith is currently serving as the leader of the Office of Student Affairs on an interim-basis while the university begins its search for a new dean of students.
Smith has worked closely with the Office of Student Affairs since the start of her career at UIndy and said that the team has not missed a beat and continues to be on top of things despite staffing changes.
“Naturally, with someone as impactful as Kory [Vitangeli], and having been here as long as she was, you’re definitely going to feel that [absence]. We will definitely miss her,” Smith said. “And I can say that people have learned, I’m sure, from her, how to be exceptional at their job. I’m really excited to say that I’ve been very much impressed at their ability to keep things going.”
Student Affairs is currently in the beginning stages of some important changes, with several initiatives and reorganizations starting soon. However, reorganization is currently taking priority over finding Vitangeli’s replacement, according to Smith.
“We don’t have any plans as of this moment,” said Smith. “Right now, we’re looking at the organization, we’re looking at the student experience. We’re looking at our university. We obviously want to make sure that we are positioning people, as well as students, to be served [rightfully]. We want our employees happy [and] we want our students happy, and so we’re in that process right now, but we don’t have any decisions as of this point being made. …Probably in a month or two, so we [can] actually begin to put things right.”
When Interim President Phil Terry began his new position, there was also a reorganization of the institution to allow for more efficiency. As a result, academic and Student Affairs now report to Executive Vice President and Provost Christopher Plouff. He said Student Affairs is in great hands with Smith as the interim, but the university wants to focus on restructuring and including students in that process.
“We’re working together–primarily Amber [Smith] and I– leading efforts to look at and evaluate what we have for our student support structures, as well as our academic support structures, and coordinating those in a way that’s going to be best for students,” Plouff said. “The way to know that is to engage our students in understanding how they are experiencing our services and what is working well and what could be better. We’re going to begin this fall to have some summits, bringing people together to share experiences [and] input, so that we can know how to best organize those areas going forward.”
Ultimately, Plouff said, Student Affairs does not want any concerns swept over during this period of transition. He encourages students to reach out to himself and Smith whenever needed.
“Because of the good work of some real, strong leadership over in that area [Student Affairs], things are being adequately and appropriately attended to and covered. But we know that when you’re a person-short, things can fall through the cracks that maybe someone was or was not aware of,” Plouff said. “We don’t want that to be the case, where someone feels like that’s been missed or has been ignored.”
Smith said that in the two-and-a-half years that she has worked at UIndy, Vitangeli was an excellent partner in working with students and providing culturally enriching opportunities and partnerships. Many of the things Smith was able to accomplish were possible because of Student Affairs, she said, and that Vitangeli has left a mark on the department.
“She was very much so relational, caring about the students and wanting to always provide support for students. And I think that that is, in my opinion, a strong legacy that I see in her team, with the directors and the staff that is there,” Smith said. “It is clear that students are the primary focus, and making sure that we’re there for them in the best way that we know how to be and making sure that they are having the resources and tools that they need to be successful. That’s what Student Affairs is about.”