By Kavahn Mansouri
Starting July 1, the director of the University Center and student activities position will be divided into two positions — the director of University Center and director of student activities.
Current Assistant Director of the University Center and Student Activities Jennifer Stewart will take on the Student Activities position, while Assistant Director of Housing and Residential Life Katie Knetzer will assume the director of the University Center position.
Associate Vice President and Dean of Students Ted Hoef said the decision was made in April after interviewing internal candidates. Hoef and Associate Dean of Students Collete Cummings jointly decided to split the position.
“We felt that the decision to split the position best served Webster University Student Affairs and the overall needs of our students. It also allowed us to match the strengths of the candidates with the needs of these departments,” Hoef said.
The position became available in March when John Ginsburg, the director of the university center and student activities, moved to Ghana to work at Webster University’s new campus, which will open in the fall.
Hoef, from 1992 to 1996 a similar structure was in place that split up the responsibilities. The position was combined when Ginsburg was hired and up until now remained as one.
Knetzer said the division is set up to give focus to student life and the University Center as individual entities.
“It was considered an organizational realignment. They were looking within student affairs staff for the best way to make it work to help the department run smoothly,” Knetzer said. “It’s helping to not put such a load on one individual person to manage all of that. (Now) we can really focus our energy and do the best work possible within the smaller framework by splitting the position.”
Knetzer’s responsibilities as assistant director of housing and residential life will be reassigned to other staff members within the housing department and her old position will remain vacant.
Hoef said Knetzer and Stewart will provide needed leadership to the their new positions,
“With current staffing levels, we feel that this presents us with the best opportunity to positively advance both student activities and the University Center,” Hoef said.
In her new position, Stewart will continue to work with student activities.
“As director of student activities I will have responsibilities over campus activities, which is our largest programming entity on campus. Campus activities is responsible for things like homecoming, spring fest concert, recreational sports and those sort of large scale events,” Stewart said.
Stewart said giving up some of her responsibilities will be “bittersweet.”
“I understand and see the potential for why we’re making a change but it is a little difficult for me to see the department I’ve worked in for the past seven or so years get split,” Stewart said. “There are definitely a lot of unknowns and questions from the students, the staff, from people who knew how it was. I think there will be a lot of education that has to be done just be sure people understand what we’re trying to accomplish.”
Stewart will also work with the commuter council, the WebsterLEADS program and the Student Government Association (SGA). In her current position Stewart works with SGA, but as director of student activities she will become SGA’s adviser.
Stewart said her previous role had her managing events and making sure student organizations received the funding they needed. Her new position will cut the juggling aspect out of her work and allow her to focus on all of her responsibilities.
One of the main goals of the new positions is to increase student involvement at Webster, Hoef said.
“Our goal is to continue to increase student involvement, enhance leadership development for students involved in SGA and student organizations, and to improve the experience of those utilizing the University Center,” Hoef said.
The Journal requested an interview with Provost and Senior Vice President Julian Schuster to ask if and how the budget shortfall impacted the university’s decision to hire internally and split the director of the University Center and student activities position.
Barbara O’Malley, associate vice president and chief communications officer for Webster University, informed The Journal that Schuster was not available for an interview this week. She said she could research and answer The Journal’s questions but would first need questions in writing. She said this is her office’s policy. The Journal‘s policy is to not provide written questions in place of or prior to interviews. Because of that policy, information regarding if and how the budget shortfall affected hiring was not made available.