Campus / News / May 6, 2010

Profile: Debbie Southern

When Dean of Students Xavier Romano went on leave and Knox announced his resignation that will be effective on June 1, Associate Dean of Students and now acting Dean of Students Debbie Southern stepped in to take on an extra job.

“I’m doing both jobs. But in the Office of Student Development, our staff is helping. Everybody’s pitching in,” Southern said.

As the Associate Dean of Students, Southern is in charge of student conduct issues, new student orientation and the Honors Banquet, amongst other things.

“I love my Associate Dean’s job very much,” Southern said.

Southern is the acting Dean of Students until June 1, and takes over officially as Dean of Students on June 2. She says that, while things are definitely busy, she still loves what she does. As far as how things have changed since Southern took over, she said there have not been any major transformations.

“There hasn’t been any major shift in the way I’m doing things,” she said. A big challenge for Southern has been learning the workings of the office and continuing to get things done for students in a timely manner.

“To the best of my ability, I’m trying to follow through with whatever Xavier started,” she said.

She realized that for some people the transition might be confusing and that some students might not know if they can go to her with the same issues they would go to Romano about.

“I think because it’s a transition, it’s confusing,” she said.

Southern spent a lot of time learning the process of the Office of Student Development, and said that instead of looking into the procedure for how things are done, she just has to do them.

“I just have to do it,” she said. “Students want things done. I spend a lot of time asking, ‘How did Xavier go about doing this?’”

On the subject of being twice as busy, Southern said, “I don’t want students to think, oh, I can’t even get in to see her. I’ve tried to create little pieces of time so that when things come up, I can fit you in.”

Southern said the end of spring term will be a chance to restructure and get a bit more organized.

But will Southern be Dean of Students permanently?

Southern said that when a new president comes to Knox, he or she might want to have a search for a new dean.

“Am I going to be Dean of Students forever? No. There is going to be a search,” she said. “I may or may not apply for that job.”

“I really love student development,” she said. “I’ve worked in student development for 25 years. There are times when things are challenging, but I like the job. Or I wouldn’t be doing it.”

Above all, Southern said she is not going to slow down in terms of working with students because of this change.

“We’re not slowing down,” she said. “We’re moving forward.”

Annie Zak

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