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Meet Kristine Goodwin, Vice President for Student Affairs

Kristine C. Goodwin became Providence College’s vice president for student affairs early in the spring semester, and she hit the ground running.

As the chief student affairs officer, she oversees 85 professional staff members in the division, which is comprised of Residence Life, Off-Campus Housing, Safety and Security and Transportation, Student Health, Career Services, Student Activities-Involvement-Leadership, Community Standards, Multicultural Activities, Personal Counseling, and Recreation and Club Sports.

Goodwin came to PC from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., where she was associate dean of students/student life since 2001. Previously, she worked at Connecticut College for eight years, serving as associate dean of student life as well as director of residential life.

She received a bachelor’s degree in political science from Westfield State University and a master’s degree in educational administration from the University of Massachusetts, Lowell.

Goodwin recently answered some questions about her career in higher education and her objectives for and impressions of PC.

Why did you decide to pursue a career in higher education?

I didn’t really choose it initially. I, as an undergraduate, majored in political science and concentrated in public administration. I had a wonderful faculty mentor who encouraged me to pursue a degree to become a professor, so I enrolled at the University of Rhode Island.

While I was at URI, for the tuition, room, and board I became a residence hall coordinator, and as I did that, I realized that that was where my passions lie.

I love the academy, and the development of the mind. In other words I still wanted to be a teacher. But I realized I didn’t have to do that in the classroom. And as much as I loved public administration, in some ways, there were other things calling out to me. I wanted to be in a position where I could help integrate the in-class learning I loved, and still love, with experiences that complement the education beyond classroom walls.

What have been your initial priorities at PC?

I started by getting to know people.  If you look at my calendar or see me at lunch, I’m usually with students, faculty, and staff from around the campus.  I want to know what people think about Student Affairs and particularly about our relationship to the College’s Strategic Plan. I’ve identified ways to assess how we’re already contributing and in what ways we can be contributing more.

I formed three internal think tanks, identified two additional areas of focus, and conducted focus groups with student leaders to form a plan and ensure buy-in.  I will submit a summary report and recommendations in June and continue holding focus groups in the fall.

What are the strengths of PC’s student life? What are its biggest challenges?

As cliché as this may sound, this place is full of kind, compassionate, dedicated people. I have not met a person who is not genuinely committed to the mission and tasks of Providence College and to students. The dedication is stunning.

This commitment to community, to collaboration, to helping one another, and the authenticity of the people … the human resources, I think, is our greatest strength.

Another strength is the vision of Father Shanley [College President Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P ’80]. That is something that appealed to me greatly and was a large part of me coming to Providence. He’s a transparent, visionary leader. I think he’s got great insight about the future of higher education and knows what to do to bring us, as he stated in the Strategic Plan video, from “good to great.”

He and Father Sicard [Executive Vice President and Treasurer Rev. Kenneth R. Sicard, O.P. '78 & '82G] — are just wonderful. I think they make a great team.

What I really like about the Strategic Plan they’ve developed is that it’s visionary, but it also meets the College where it is at. I think this plan is one that reaches and stretches, but does so in a way that people can get on board. It’s accessible and doable.

I believe the Dominican way of life is a strength — the pursuit of truth and sharing the fruits of contemplation. These are things I believe Student Affairs can do really well, and I look forward to sharing more about this moving forward. 

I think one of our biggest challenges is the lack of national recognition. With everything that’s going on here, I can’t believe we don’t have a stronger national reputation. The good news is that we’ve got something that’s nationally worthy. We just have to work on communicating it, and not just one office can do that. You can’t say, ‘OK, Institutional Advancement is going to take care of it, or Admission is going to do it.” We all need to pitch in.

Student Affairs can contribute by presenting at national conferences, nominating programs for awards, and publishing articles. In that exchange of information, I think we can be more on the map.

Between your own education and your career as an administrator, you’ve spent lots of time on college campuses. What advice do you have for students and parents for making the most of the college experience?

Sometimes I hear very well intentioned people tell students that college is going to be the best years of their lives. While I think these years have potential to be good, I hope they’re not their “best.” We’re preparing them for their best. I believe we’re helping prepare them to BE their best.

One piece of advice I give parents is, when sons or daughters call you with all sorts of ideas that you don’t approve of, take comfort in the fact that they’re probably going to change their minds.

College is a time of changing minds. It’s a time to figure out, ‘Who am I? What do I believe and who am I going to be in this world? Who am I called to be?” And that may involve stretching and experimenting.

What may seem to a parent or a faculty member or a dean or a res life staff member as challenging behavior … it’s often that they’re testing things out. They’re trying to figure out who they are.

I want students to always be safe in the ways that they do that and be attentive to the ways they impact the people around them. But I also want to give them room to discern for themselves, and to correct their mistakes.

When I think about the term “vocation,” it’s not only about a job or work. It’s about contributing to and transforming society. I think this is the difference between us and some of our competitor institutions that claim to do the same kind of academic rigor, the same kind of career prep, internships and all those things we’re going to do and do well. We have a bonus, a value added, which, in addition to the breadth and depth of the liberal arts, is a depth of values and conscience that I think will help our students be good people.

I think we do a good job educating students, but we also have to help them be able to explain the value of a liberal arts education, particularly in a world where the types of jobs are changing so quickly.

To train people for jobs that may not exist is foolhardy. It’s about preparing people to do whatever jobs there are, and that’s going to mean having good, critical thinking, good oral presentation skills, good writing skills, a sense of history as a context for predicting the future, a sense of innovation, of entrepreneurship, and of collaboration.

I was listening to NPR on the way in this morning and they were talking about how the most successful companies are going to be the ones where people enjoy their work and collaborate in ways that bring out the best. We can teach that both in and outside of the classroom at Providence College, and we can do that in the context of seeking the truth for greater impact.

I believe this from the bottom of my heart. My own personal journey has prepared me for this kind of conversation, this kind of work.


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