Annie Deitz, Campus Carrier Staff Writer
Several key staff changes occurred in the Berry College administration over the course of this summer. Debbie Heida, previous dean of students, has transitioned to the role of chief of staff, following the retirement of previous Chief of Staff Gary Waters. With 14 years of experience as the dean of students at Berry, and 29 total years in similar roles across other various institutions, Heida is prepared and excited to begin her first school year as chief of staff.
The transition officially began July 1st, but as most major transitions do, it has taken a few weeks to complete. Now, Heida is ready for the coming semester, but understands she has a lot to learn about the position.
“I do feel settled in, although I think any new role really takes almost a full year to learn everything, because you have to learn what the rhythm of the year is there, versus what it was someplace else,” Heida said.
In her new position, Heida must be more responsible for strategic planning. She still helps Oak Hill and Historic Berry, athletics and hospitality and events department, bringing those departments under her new office. However, now she must expand her focus to supporting the board of trustees and the general work of the President’s Office. She likes that she was able to bring some things with more student contact, like athletics, into the new role because it allows her to continue working with departments she has been with for her entire time at Berry.
One of the larger projects Heida foresees for this year is discussion of what a future Personal and Professional Development Center could look like at Berry. She plans to continue these discussions throughout the fall semester in hopes that this program could come to fruition. Furthermore, this semester the President’s Office will be continuing the search for the replacement of Director of Athletics Todd Brooks and filling positions at Oak Hill.
“Any time you love a place, the chance to stay fresh and contribute in new ways is always something that you think about,” Heida said “so I think the chance to work in a very different way with the strategic planning in a couple key areas of the college is an exciting change for me after 29 years in the same role.”
The change will be bittersweet for Heida. The office has joked quite a bit about how she has been at the same place at 7 o’clock on Tuesday nights for her whole time at Berry, referring to SGA meetings. However, she is ready and excited to be able to work with the institution from another, more strategic angle.
Previous Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs Lindsey Taylor will be filling Heida’s roles as dean of students. As the new dean of students, Taylor is now responsible for several different departments that directly affect student life, including Student Activities, Residence Life, Recreation and Wellness, the Health Center, the Counseling Center and the Student Diversity Initiatives Office. Student conduct and student orientation will also be under her domain. The dean of students role means that Taylor will be spending a lot of time with SGA. She explains it as her being the advocate for students on an institutional level, voicing the concerns and comments of students amid major policy changes and general college functions.
Taylor plans to give herself a year to fully settle into the role, echoing the sentiments of Heida. She compares it to a student’s freshman year of college. It takes that first year to get a solid grasp on how college works, but once students come back for their sophomore year, they are more adjusted. She expects to get into the rhythm as school starts back up.
Taylor is most excited to be able to work closer with students.
Moving from Residence Life to Student Affairs has allowed her interaction with students to evolve. Now she is able to be involved with students at a more holistic level.
Currently, students should expect no immediate policy changes in Student Affairs. Taylor prefers to observe first, and examine what the student body actually needs in a thoughtful manner before changing anything.
“Students shouldn’t feel a shift in terms of living/being on campus,” Taylor said. Over time, this could differ. This extends to her new role as Title IX coordinator. However, she has implemented new Title IX training modules. For the most part, this has mainly only impacted incoming freshmen.
Although Taylor has worked on campus for 13 years, her new position allows her to gain a new perspective on the college. She is grateful to have Heida available for guidance and advice. Heida, in return, has great confidence and high hopes for Taylor in the new positions.
“I couldn’t feel better about Lindsey Taylor and her stepping into role,” Heida said. “That helps you feel better about moving to something else, when you know that you have a really talented person stepping in.”
Throughout this semester and in the years to come, Taylor implores students to contact her with information that she should know. Furthermore, she hopes students will utilize SGA, seeing as it was made to help voice student opinions.