Meet the New Dean of Students
Jaime Woody was appointed dean of students and director of residence life effective July 1. She replaced Mike Leese, who served as dean of students from 2003-2012.
Woody holds a B.A. in English education from Northeastern State University in Oklahoma and a master’s degree in educational psychology from Texas A&M University. She was hired at Southwestern in July 1991 to serve as coordinator for the residence halls on the east side of campus that are known as the Jones Complex. That job involved overseeing about 20 residence assistants (RAs).
In January 1993, Woody was promoted to director of student activities and summer conferences – a position that was restructured in September 1999 to be just director of student activities. She became associate dean for student life in May 2001.
As dean of students and director of residence life, Woody will oversee eight professional staff members in Residence Life, Student Activities and SIRA (Southwestern Intramural and Recreational Activities). She also is ultimately responsible for more than 50 resident assistants (RAs), 25 student workers in Student Activities, and 25 student workers in SIRA She also coordinates all violations of the Honor Code and violations of the university’s Code of Conduct for students.
Woody sat down with representatives from University Communications this summer to talk about her new position.
What exactly does the dean of students do?
Here at Southwestern, the dean of students is an advocate and an ally for the students. Discipline is part of the job, but not all of it. There are opportunities for enhancing the student experience through residence life, building a vibrant living-learning community, and supporting the RAs and continuing their education.
What are your priorities?
To listen. I want to use the first six months to have conversations with students, student organizations, staff and faculty to hear concerns – what’s going well and what can be done differently.
How did you get interested in working in the field of student life?
As with many of us in who wind up in the student affairs profession, I stumbled into it. During my junior year in college, I worked closely with my director of student activities who became one of my first mentors. I discovered there was a profession that would allow me the opportunity to do the types of things for a career that I enjoyed during my undergraduate experience − student affairs.
What is it you like about this field?
I like the connectivity and the interpersonal nature of the profession. I like seeing the student experience come full-circle from their first day on campus during orientation through their walk across the stage at Commencement. I like that each day brings me new and different challenges and growth opportunities. I like that most days are different and unique. I like that I have the opportunity to be part of a student’s Southwestern University chapter in their life story.
What is your philosophy?
I’m student-centered. The student experience and finding ways to improve that experience is perpetually at the focus of my thought process. I’m focused on growth opportunities for the student, and I recognize that some of those opportunities may be uninvited and may be uncomfortable. I’m a resource for navigating challenges, and I’m a supporter of successes. I’m a problem-solver. My goal is to try to get to some iteration of “yes.”
What has kept you at Southwestern for so many years?
In my first interview with The Megaphone, 21 years ago, I was asked this same question; my answer remains the same, “I’ll be here as long as I’m effective.” Working at Southwestern has been an incredibly positive experience. Every year has provided me with new opportunities to grow. That’s what’s kept me energized. I’ve never felt stagnant here. I’m very appreciative of the opportunity Southwestern has given me.
What are some of your goals as dean of students?
My first priority will be to listen. I want to hear from the various constituencies about what is working … and maybe what needs some attention. This is a new job for me, despite my long tenure at Southwestern, and I plan to treat it as such. I want to have conversations. I want to be a resource to students. I want to be an ally. I want to be an advocate. I want to have conversations with students in their spaces − outside of my office. One specific area I hope to focus on is enhancing the relationship between Residence Life and faculty. I don’t know how many faculty have actually stepped into the residence halls. It would be fun if we could figure out ways to merge these two worlds.
I also want to figure out creative ways to put my finger on the pulse of campus and have some of those informal conversations I mentioned – perhaps through monthly “fireside chats” or while handing out popsicles on the veranda. I want to be accessible to students. I want to redefine the role of dean of students. As cliché as it might sound, I want to be the dean for students.
Did Mike Leese leave you any words of advice?
Dr. Leese and I worked together at Texas A&M for two years. He came to Southwestern two years after I did. All that is to say he’s been giving me advice for 20-plus years. I’ve used those years to store many of his words of wisdom. However, most recently he imparted the following “Leese-isms”:
“Show flexibility; use good judgment; use common sense; have a sense of humor and a good time. Appreciate the 1:1 student contact and know that you’re making a difference in their life. Realize each day is a new adventure, and you’re adding a new chapter to your book. Learn to say ‘no’; don’t have as many meetings as Julie Cowley; and take time to vision for the future.”