SAU Buzz

Student Affairs sees a midsummer change

by Ashlynn Maczko
Posted on Sep 20, 2018

Over the summer, St. Ambrose University received news that changed the makeup of the student affairs division.


On July 25, the university announced via email that Tim Phillips, dean of students, would be leaving St. Ambrose to accept a position at Carlow University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


Tim Phillips was hired on as the dean of students at St. Ambrose University in 2005.


“What brought me to St. Ambrose was a combination of things,” Phillips explained. “I wanted to be at a small place, residentially-based, liberal arts core, faith-based institutionthe vision and core values really spoke to me.”


Not only had the opportunity to work at St. Ambrose felt like a good fit professionally, it was also the right decision for Phillip’s family at the time.


“The Quad Cities struck me as a bigger community with a small-town feel, which is what we were looking for,” Phillips said.


Over the years Phillips had experienced many high and low points in his role as dean of students; from working with students who are trying to learn about themselves and making very positive strides to helping students facing setbacks on their journeys.


“Even when I’ve been working with students who are in trouble or experiencing some significant pain, what I’ve had the honor to do was see into their souls a little bit,” Phillips explained. “And that’s an honor that I couldn’t ask more of.”


While serving as dean of students, Phillips juggled night classes in order to complete a doctorate degree. After receiving his doctorate degree in 2015, Phillips began thinking about his next professional pursuits.


“With Dr. Koch and President Lescinski’s support, I began doing a little bit of discerning on what that would look like,” Phillips said. In the last two years or so, what I came to some of the conclusions were that I wanted to be in a senior level position, to serve on a cabinet and to have regular interaction with the president and other vice-presidents.”


With his family gradually making a move towards the East Coast, Phillips knew that Carlow seemed like the logical next step in his life.


“It was not an easy decision,” Phillips said. “I don’t ever regret decisions I make, but I certainly don’t walk away scot-free here. Part of my soul is in this place and always will be.”


On August 14, Phillips walked through the doors of the Rogalski Center for his last day as the dean of students. The next day, Matt Hansen, former director of residence life and former assistant dean of students, stepped into his role as the interim dean of students at St. Ambrose.


While Hansen serves as the interim dean of students, St. Ambrose will begin the search for candidates to fill the dean of students position long-term. Dr. Paul Koch, provost and vice president for academic and student affairs, said the university hopes to have a dean in position by July 1, 2019.


St. Ambrose is in the process of placing advertisements for the position in locations that will attract a diverse group of applicants. The higher education recruitment consortium is one such platform that they utilize.


A search committee of six to eight faculty and staff members will review initial applications, and then conduct phone interviews with a smaller pool of potential candidates. Koch explained that they will usually narrow down the pool to three candidates that will be invited to campus for intensive interviews and forums with students and student leaders.


After the intensive interviews, the search committee will help to identify the candidates that they feel will be the best fit, and Koch will make the final decision on who is hired for the position.


“Transitions like this are always challenging for people,” Koch said. “We’re very fortunate to have Dr. Phillips as dean of students for as long as we did; in my interaction with deans at other institutions, Tim was an extraordinary dean of students.”


While this change brings challenges for the student affairs division, Phillips and Koch are confident that student affairs will continue to thrive.


“While they’re certainly challenged, and not everything may get done, I think they’ll continue to be responsive to student needs first and foremost,” Phillips said.


“I’m comfortable that he surrounded himself with very strong people in student affairs,” Koch explained. “And so, while Matt Hansen has stepped up to the plate to be interim, there’s a whole lot of other people in that division who are more than capable of carrying us forward.”


In giving words of wisdom for the individual that would become dean of students, Phillips said that knowing and understanding the community at St. Ambrose and in the Quad Cities was one of the most important aspects of stepping into the role. He explained that getting to know the unique nature of the institution was key.


“I have learned here that there is nothing I enjoy more than individual student interaction,” Phillips said. “Young people reveal character and heart and naiveté and vision that I find refreshing and inspiring.”


When reflecting on his time at St. Ambrose, Phillips said he will always hold with him the grace that the campus community has shown him.


“To see what I perceive to be an Ambrosian to be exemplified on a daily basis, not in a way of perfection, but in a way of humanness, is something I’ll cherish,” Phillips said. “But to be referred to as an Ambrosian by those in the community who know and understand is an honor that I have cherished each time it has happened; If it continues to happen, to me, that will be an accomplishment in life that I will hold very dear to my heart.”