Dean of students candidate talks at WSU

Everyone at WSU must contribute to university success, Stoves says

JAYCE CARRAL, Evergreen reporter

Douglas Stoves, one of several finalists for future WSU Dean of Students, traveled to Pullman to get his first view of campus. A conference was held to discuss his goals for his prospective appointment.

Stoves is currently the associate dean for student rights and responsibilities at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. He is campaigning to become associate vice president for campus life/dean of students at WSU.

Stoves said the Drive to 25, the goal for WSU to become one of the top 25 public research universities in the nation by 2030, would require a cultural shift, and has already begun on campus.

Stoves said he is partial to a “holistic approach,” and to maintain positive movements toward reaching the top 25, it requires every part and every person at WSU to move forward.

“There are no unimportant parts,” Stoves said. “Everybody has to be a leader. Everybody has to be a participant. Everybody has to be moving in the same direction.”

If he were to become dean of students, Stoves said some of his goals would be to improve graduation rates and the first- and second-year retention rates.

“[Students] are here to get a degree,” he said. “Coming to WSU, we expect you to operate at a high level of honesty and integrity. We want to make sure that we have high expectations: in the classroom, behaviorally and all the way around.”

The life of a student does not end when they leave, he said, so neither should the university’s responsibility of that student end at graduation.

“If we want to improve the way students are employed, the way they use their degree after, we have to react as best we can,” Stoves said. “We have to give students the training they need [to succeed after they graduate.]”

Another one of Stoves’ goals is to engage students further with the campus, community, peers and teachers, he said.

“The academic life of a student happens both in and out of the classroom,” he said. “We’re using students to teach students. If we really want to showcase our students’ mastery, then let’s engage our students in the teaching of [their subject.]”

Sports, Greek life and student programs should be supported by administration, Stoves said. He said an engaged campus is a vibrant campus.

“We know that students engaged in a fraternity or sorority tend to maintain a higher retention rate,” he said. “We know we can use [sports] as a sense of identity. We can rally students behind that.”

Change, Stoves said, must be good for everybody involved. However, he said change requires constantly assessing where students are, how they see themselves and how they see their university.

“A shift is going to happen,” he said. “We can either let it happen to us, be a part of it or be leading the curve.”

Stoves said the needs of students should be treated with a sense of urgency.

“The worst thing we can do is ping-pong our students on and not take care of their issues,” he said.

After his presentation, Stoves took questions from his audience which consisted of faculty and student representatives.

Success is made of equal parts listening and action to help reach the goals of each Greek chapter, Stoves said. If the chapters have an untraditional way of reaching their goals, he is more than open to supporting them.

“Sometimes the out-of-the-box [thinking] is some of the best stuff we can have,” he said. “I would ask you critical questions, and the more questions you can answer the more confident I become that I can support that initiative.”

Academic integrity, Stoves said, requires a partnership with students, faculty and the Student Affairs department. Creating a task force, he said, would help with the prevention of academic dishonesty.

Training hearing officers for the task force would allow students to not only take responsibility for their dishonesty, but allow them to learn from it.

“We’ve confirmed responsibility,” he said. “Now how do we make sure that students [learn] how to be a better scholar?”

Stoves also discussed working to protect marginalized students at WSU.

In Texas, he said, his school created a DREAM Zone Advocacy Program which provides resources for undocumented students.

“I want students to know who they can go to,” he said. “That’s one of the ways I work with a marginalized group.”

Stoves will make the same efforts toward the LGBTQ+ community, he said. Ensuring that marginalized students are aware that they have his support, he said, is one way in which he will advocate for students.

“Regardless of how [students] identify,” Stoves said, “I am here on their behalf.”

Another issue Stoves addressed was the mental and emotional health of WSU students. This, he said, would also require an effort made by the entire university.

Availability to resources that can help in a crisis is a challenge nationwide, Stoves said.

“Engaging [the university] is part of the solution,” he said. “Any behavioral intervention is an active process, and we hope that our students will improve over time.”

Editor’s Note: This article has been corrected to reflect Douglas Stoves is a finalist, not a candidate for the WSU Dean of Students position, Drive to 25 is not a Student Affairs initiative and there are also several other finalists that have visited the campus for this position.