New director sought for Student Programs

By Melissa Prentice

Arizona Daily Wildcat

As an undergraduate, she was involved in student organizations and the Greek system.

Now, she is seeking the University of Arizona's leading student programming position.

Gayle Spencer, who currently works as assistant director of student activities at the University of Notre Dame, said her ability to be an effective director stems from her experiences in student programming, both as a participant and an administrator.

"I feel I am ready to be a director," she said. "I have moved up through the ranks and seen a lot of good and bad administrators that I could learn from."

Spencer and two other candidates are finalists in a nationwide search for the director of the Department of Student Programs. About 50 applicants applied to fill the position, which pays approximately $45,000 per year and has been open since Carol Thompson took a position as associate dean of students in June 1993. Interim director Dan Maxwell and Tom Jackson from the University of Texas-El Paso will be featured in articles later this week.

The job includes overseeing student government, Greek Life, the University Activities Board, student organizations, Family Weekend, KAMP student radio and the Center for Off-Campus Students.

Spencer also said her ability to earn the respect of students she works with and to make positive changes within existing organizations would make her a successful director. She said she would try to offer stability to a staff that has had two interim directors since 1993 and to seek creative ways to overcome the department's shrinking budget.

"We need to think ahead and figure out what we need to do," she said. "If we can't get money from traditional means like the state, we have to find different ways to fund things."

Spencer describes herself as someone who is "not a meeting person," who would rather talk with people individually and handle conflict in an "honest and direct way."

"I am an open-door person," she said. "I prefer talking with students and interacting with different kinds of student groups."

When given the opportunity after a day of meetings, Spencer took advantage of an hour-long student-input session to ask the students what they considered to be the biggest problems in the department and what they expect from a director.

Consensus among the six students in attendance, who represented Panhellenic, the Associated Students, the Residence Hall Association, New-Traditional Students and Project Volunteer, is that the biggest problem is the lack of cohesion between various student organizations.

"There is little interaction with other departments, which is unfortunate since we all use so many of each others resources," said Erin Driskell, a business senior and Panhellenic executive vice president.

Mike Harter, the ASUA Elections Commissioner, said the DSP's move last year to Room 101 in the Student Union was intended to foster unity and encourage clubs to work together and share resources. However, the changes resulting from the various directors over the past two years hasn't allowed that, he said.

Gwen Forehand, an anthropology and international business junior, said she has also noticed the disunity in her work with New-Traditional students, but thought the problem was a result of the size of the university.

"I came from a small university and thought it was just the nature of the animal," she said.

The students' ideal director ranged from someone who would "help advocate Greek Life" to someone who would help raise funds for and promote student programming.

The students, as well as other university employees Spencer met with during the day, were asked to complete evaluations that will be used to determine who is hired for the job, Thompson said.

"I like that she is more directed

toward students," said Jennifer Michaels, a microbiology freshman and member of RHA. "The fact that she asked about our concerns shows that she will try to help solve the problems."

The other students said they were grateful for the opportunity to give their input in the process.

"We are the ones working under them," said Jocelyn Nelms, a nursing freshman and member of Project Volunteer. "As student volunteers, most of the people in the office are students. Our input is essential."

"Students can give a different viewpoint, a fresh outlook," Forehand said.

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