16 years in dean's office gives Kent unique perspective

By Veronica Hirsch

Arizona Summer Wildcat

Sue Kent, who has worked in the Dean of Students office for 16 years, will be retiring on July 27. Currently the Assistant to the Dean, she began working as a secretary to the Assistant Dean in 1979.

Born in Michigan, she graduated in 1952 from Michigan State University with a B.A. in Journalism and in 1967 earned a Master's degree in Elementary Education from Elmira College in Elmira, N.Y.

In 1970 she moved to Tucson with her husband and three sons and ran a rental car business until 1979 when she began working at the University of Arizona.

Wildcat: What did you think about Tucson when you arrived?

Sue Kent: Well when I first came here I just laid down and cried. It was so bare looking, and everything looked the same ... every tree looked just like every other tree and every plant looked like every other plant. I thought there was probably going to be a snake around every bush (laughs). I hate snakes. But now I like it here and I wouldn't live anywhere else.

WC: What strikes you as really different about college life today?

SK: Well, when I was in school we had to wear slacks and dresses to school, you couldn't wear shorts on campus (laughs). That was naughty. And girls had to be in by a certain time at night ... But then in those days we treated students like they were children, and now, you know, they're adults. And by the same token, students have to realize it and act like it and take responsibility. The schools in those times took responsibility away from the students, rather than students taking responsibility for themselves. And I really don't think we were as well prepared.

WC: What do you think is the biggest change on campus since you started working here?

SK: I think there's more inclusion of students in decision making ─we hardly have any committees anymore that don't have student representation. Students have a say in what's going on in the university and early on that wasn't the case. Very seldom were students on committees.

Also, one of the biggest changes I've seen in the student population, and I think that it's a very positive one, is the participation and success of minority students. When I first came here there were very limited programs for minorities ... We now have many more minority students working in offices around campus and participating in activities and student government ... I'm not saying it's perfect, there is still a long way to go, but I do think it is so much better than it was 16 years ago, there's just no comparison.

I worry about the current climate about affirmative action, because I think we really need affirmative action ... if you don't have affirmative action I'm afraid we'll slip back to the way it was somewhat, although I don't think we'll ever go back to where we were, God help us if we do.

WC: What has changed in the dean's office over the years?

SK: One of the changes I've seen is that the dean's office used to be thought of as the place students went because of disciplinary problems ... it was like students were almost afraid to come to the dean. To come to the dean's office you had to either be a student government officer, or you had to be in trouble (laughs). Today we serve a much broader range of students.

WC: What would you say is one of the hardest parts of your job?

SK: Well, one of the most difficult things is when you are dealing with an office that won't help a student out ─there are people who just follow the letter of the law, and just can not make a bend regardless of what the situation is ... and then the other thing that can be difficult is when you are dealing with a student or parent who won't be helped. In other words, they come in with an agenda and regardless of what you do or the reasons you do it ... they won't see the other side of the story.

WC: What would you say is the best part of your job?

SK: Well I think one of the most satisfying things is when you can help a student with a problem. And one of the nicest things is when they come back or write and say , "Gee thanks a lot, you really helped me out."

WC: What will you miss most about your job?

SK: Well, I'll miss the people mainly, and I guess that's what life is all about, is people.

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