In the upcoming months, Gustavus will experience several changes in the Student Life division, with the promotions of Steve Bennett, the current Assistant Dean of Students, Virgil Jones, who is currently working as the Director of Multicultural Programs, and the hiring of Dr. JoNes Vanhecke ’88 as the new Dean of Students and Vice President for Student Life.
Vanhecke will once again be joining the Gustavus community in June in her new role with Student Life and bringing with her nearly 20 years of experience as a student affairs professional. A graduate of Gustavus, Vanhecke was heavily involved and engaged as a communication studies and biology major. Following her graduation from Gustavus in 1988, she went on to Indiana University where she earned a master’s degree in the Higher Education and Student Affairs program. Upon her graduation from Indiana University, she accepted a position at Virginia Wesleyan College as the Associate Director of Residence Life, leaving in 1994 to come back to her alma mater.
Vanhecke served three years at Gustavus as the Director of Student Activities and five years as the Assistant Dean of Students before moving on to receive her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan’s Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education in 2006. Her most recent position is with another Midwest liberal arts institution, Central College in Pella, Iowa, where she is now finishing serving as the Vice President for Student Development and Dean of Student Life.
“I am absolutely thrilled that Dr. Vanhecke has accepted the position and that she is joining us,” Jeff Stocco, the current interim Dean of Students and Vice President of Student Life said. “I think that this will be an extremely smooth transition because of how familiarized with Gustavus she already is and because of the skills and great education she has.”
Stocco believes Vanhecke’s time at Central College in a similar position as the one she will be fulfilling at Gustavus has been essential in helping her prepare for her new role. “She really loves helping students learn, grow, develop and change. Students will find she is deeply engaged and that she loves working with students.”
Vanhecke plans to begin her work at Gustavus in June. Her responsibilities will include supervising the offices involved with Student Life, including Alcohol and Drug Education, Campus Safety, the Counseling Center, Multicultural Programs, Health Services, Judicial Affairs, Residential Life and Student Activities, as well as maintaining contact and working with students, and reporting to the President of the College as a member of his cabinet.
Over the course of the summer, the new administrative team for Student Life consisting of four members will meet under the direction of Vanhecke in order to delegate further responsibilities for the members of Student Life for the upcoming academic year.
Steve Bennett, the current Assistant Dean of Students, will be a member of this team in his new role as the Associate Dean of Students. Bennett began working at Gustavus during 1997 as a part-time staff psychologist in the Counseling Center, a position he held for 10 years. Over the course of the next 10 years, Bennett served as a staff psychologist, Assistant Director of the Counseling Center and Director of the Counseling Center. Four years ago, Bennett had the opportunity to move into the Dean’s Office while maintaining his role with the Counseling Center.
“I welcomed the opportunity to serve the college in a different capacity,” Bennett said. “I am really interested in working with students who are struggling with personal and academic challenges and helping to support them in reaching their goals.”
Bennett looks at his promotion as an opportunity to continue that work with students and to take on additional responsibilities, which will include being available to serve the college in a leadership role as determined by the new Vice President of Student Life and Dean of Students.
Virgil Jones is joining the Dean of Students Office as the new Assistant Dean of Students while remaining the Director of Multicultural Programs. Jones is enjoying the success of his time at Gustavus so far with the Diversity Center, whose number of students served in the past five years has doubled.
Jones is currently in his seventh year as a staff member at Gustavus. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin Lacrosse, Jones began as the Assistant Director of Admissions and Coordinator of Multicultural Recruitment at Gustavus in 2004. He has also coached football for the past two years and serves on the International Admissions Committee.
“I will have greater responsibilities as determined by the administration team, but will still be devoted to this office,” Jones said. “This is a good transition for me personally in the sense that this office will now have a greater presence in the Dean’s Office.”
Jones is also excited for the upcoming search to fill a newly created position within the Multicultural Programs Office. The search for an Assistant Director of Multicultural Programs will alleviate some of the stress of the responsibilities placed on the current staff members in the office and will allow him to focus a little more on the responsibilities of his new role as the Assistant Dean.
Stocco expects all of these transitions to go quite smoothly, noting the positive attributes of all of the team members. “We are all here for the common goal to help students learn, grow and develop and to become better citizens,” Stocco said.