Michaela Willis selected as vice president of Student Affairs

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Michaela Willis poses for a photo on Tuesday, Apr. 5, 2016 at South Dakota State University. Despite coming from a small univeristy, she set her sight on the large campus of SDSU. “Right in title is vice president for student affairs. I’m your advocate. I’m your voice on that administrative team. I want to make sure that I’m representing you well,” she said in a student forum.

South Dakota State University announced today that Michaela Willis will become the next vice president of student affairs.

She will follow Doug Wermedal, who served as interim vice president of student affairs for two years. She will begin her position July 22.

Michaela Willis looks to be student focused as she fills the position of the vice president of Student Affairs at SDSU.

“I am pleased to be joining the South Dakota State University family as the next vice president for Student Affairs…” Willis said in a press release. “I look forward to partnering with the campus community to serve students and the region.”

Willis said she excited and anxious to begin her time at SDSU. “The campus visit felt a lot like home,” she said said.

Willis served as the vice president for enrollment management and students affairs since 2009 at Peru State College in Nebraska. She started her journey in higher education by first becoming an admission counselor and slowly worked her way up.

“I really fell in love with the work I was doing with students,” Willis said in an interview with students in late April. “I feel really fortunate that I found my passion in higher education because I get to work with students like you every single day.”

She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Doane College in Nebraska and her doctorate in educational studies from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Her vision for Student Affairs is to have a strong foundation, create relationships, be learning focused and build community.

“My first priority coming on board is get to know the campus and to know the strengths and areas for improvement,” Willis said. Areas she wants to look at are enrollment management planning and student retention.

One of the challenges Willis may face coming from a small college is transitioning to the size of SDSU, but she said she would manage this by getting to students, faculty and staff.

“I will work hard to create opportunities to get to know people,” Willis said. She wants to create an open door policy where students feel comfortable coming to her to discuss their problems and ideas.

Willis said she plans to be accessible and visible to students by attending sporting events and other student-hosted events, including Students’ Association meetings.

“I’m your advocate,” Willis said. “I’m your voice on the administrative team so I want to make sure I’m representing you well and to do that I need to know what your interests are and what your priorities are.”