Southern Methodist University (SMU) invites inquiries, nominations and applications for an experienced, innovative, committed, and collaborative professional to serve as the next Dean of Residence Life & Student Housing (RLSH).

Reporting to the Vice President of Student Affairs, Dr. K.C. Mmeje, the Dean is a member of the vice president’s leadership team, and will also have significant interaction with senior leaders in other units like Academic Affairs, Business and Finance, Facilities, etc. The Dean interacts closely with other leaders across the institution to facilitate success in SMU’s mission which is “to create, expand, and impart knowledge through teaching, research, and service, shaping world changers who contribute to their communities and excel in their professions in a global society. Among its faculty, students, and staff, the University will cultivate principled thought, develop intellectual skills, and promote an environment emphasizing individual dignity and worth. SMU affirms its historical commitment to academic freedom and open inquiry, to moral and ethical values, and to its United Methodist heritage.” 

The university houses approximately 3600 students, 2600 in 11 Residential commons (RCs) and 1,000 across Upper Division Housing (UDH), apartments, and university owned fraternity chapter houses. The RCs provide an integrated academic and residential experience incorporating live-in Faculty in Residence (FiRs) serving as the intellectual leaders for each residential community and a Residential Community Director (RCD) who also shapes the experience of each commons.

About SMU

SMU, a global research university with a liberal arts tradition, has eight degree-granting schools. Of the University’s 12,391 students, more than 6,800 are undergraduates. The University’s profile benefits from an endowment of $2.0 billion and recently launched SMU Ignited a $1.5 billion campaign that will fuel the bold, the curious and the creative in three ways: empower outstanding students, enrich teaching and research, and enhance campus and community.

SMU is a leading private university located in the vibrant city of Dallas, which is part of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, a dynamic region with leading high-technology companies in the aerospace, defense, energy, information technology, life sciences, semiconductors, telecommunications, transportation, and biomedical industries. Some of the top companies and research institutes with a strong presence in the DFW area include Texas Instruments, Raytheon, Bell Helicopter, Lockheed-Martin, Turner Construction, Jacobs Engineering, Trinity Industries, Huitt-Zollars, Inc., The Beck Group, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, and Baylor Research Institute.

 

About the Division and Residence Life & Student Housing (RLSH)

In concert with Launching SMU's Second Century, the University's strategic plan for 2016-2025, the Division of Student Affairs is essential to SMU’s mission of "shaping world changers who contribute to their communities and excel in their professions in a global society." Students are the center of the division’s work and are the focus of its new strategic plan, Cultivating Courageous Change. The Division, as the plan’s title indicates, will be doing things differently, more boldly, to ensure it serves students with excellence and prepares them for the future and by extension, hope they live courageous lives cultivating change in their local and global communities. The plan fully embraces the University’s mission, and demonstrates that through academic and co-curricular experiences, Mustangs will explore a wide range of disciplines, think critically about complex issues, and learn how to effectively engage and navigate an increasingly globalized world. 

Residence Life & Student Housing fosters the foundational SMU experience where every student belongs, learns, and connects through their residential community. RLSH makes campus home. The RLSH unit embraces diversity and inclusion as core values that support the goal of providing an intellectually stimulating environment where a variety of ideas and perspectives work together to foster innovation. RLSH is comprised of 29 full-time staff and 130+ graduate- and undergraduate-student staff who support three functional area within the unit: Housing Operations, Residence Life, and Academic Initiatives.

Engage Dallas is an exciting Residential Commons-based service and community engagement initiative that launched in October 2020 and addresses community needs focusing on South and West Dallas. The initiative is a long-term, university-wide commitment led by students to partner with local residents, organizations, and other leaders to positively impact the community. There is equal emphasis on campus and community impact stemming from the initiative.

About the Position

The Dean of RLSH provides overall leadership for a comprehensive residence life and student housing program, a significant aspect of which is the residential commons model. The residential commons is an integrated living-learning experience that is a close collaboration between academic affairs and student affairs.  This position will play a key role in advancing the residential commons initiative and developing a comprehensive student residential experience. 

Residential Life at SMU consists of the Residential Commons, upper-division, fraternity, and apartment housing. The Dean will manage a vibrant residential environment that promotes student learning and growth, fostering a living-learning experience that integrates students’ intellectual, social, cultural, and emotional development.  The Dean has significant responsibility for ensuring the success of the residential commons program including outlining a continuing vision and assessment process for the residential commons program; frequent and collaborative interactions with faculty, academic departments (including academic advising; the undergraduate curriculum; the university honors programs; the learning enhancement center; and office of engaged learning), other student affairs departments and staff, and other key campus departments (enrollment services; planning, facilities planning and management; communication and external relations) in support of the residential commons model and the university's overall goals for the campus and student life experience.

Given the importance of the residential experience to SMU programmatically and financially, it is imperative the person charged with leading RLSH has, in addition to student affairs knowledge and/or experience, substantial experience working with and interacting with faculty.   

Position Duties & Responsibilities

  • Provide inspirational vision, leadership and oversight for the university’s comprehensive Residence Life & Student Housing program.
  • Direct supervision of the following staff, Director of Housing Operations, Director of Residence Life, Director of Academic Initiatives, and an Administrative Coordinator.
  • Engage and support a diverse campus community and foster a welcoming, supportive, safe, and inclusive environment that promotes a sense of belonging and connection to campus life.
  • Work collaboratively and effectively with administrative units within the division of student affairs and across campus. Build a strong rapport with members of the SMU community.
  • Develop and maintain positive working relationships with the Faculty in Residence (FiRs). Work closely with FiRs to strengthen academic programming and intellectual culture within the Residential Commons.
  • Strengthen the culture of assessment within RLSH. Oversee all assessment activities within the department, ensuring programs, services and systems are assessed regularly. Develop processes for annual reporting of assessment results and progress towards achieving departmental strategic goals to relevant stakeholders.
  • Ensure financial sustainability. In collaboration with the Vice President for Student Affairs and the division’s financial liaison, develop the annual budget, setting appropriate targets for revenue and expenses, including annual contribution to capital reserves. Regularly analyze local housing market data and establish competitive housing rate structure and contract provisions.
  • Collaborate with Facilities Planning & Management, the division of budget and finance, and other campus stakeholders to develop short and long-term capital investment plans to ensure facilities are properly maintained and enhanced to support strategic priorities.
  • Communicate regularly and effectively with RLSH staff and with key campus partners.
  • Oversee the day-to-day operations of RLSH including supervision of staff, departmental budgets and residential facilities (including residential commons, upper-division housing, and apartments). 
  • Manage and allocate human resources. Develop and implement an efficient and effective staffing model, ensuring that individuals with the needed knowledge, skills, and abilities are in place to support strategic priorities. Oversee all personnel-related matters within the department in accordance with university policy, including hiring, termination, promotion, professional development and training.
  • Strengthen the administrative policies and processes of RLSH including but not limited to housing assignments, marketing materials, training programs, enterprise systems, and technology deployment.
  • Forge connections and regularly dialogue with other universities that have similar residential commons/college models and be involved in professional academic and student affairs related organizations to ensure the residential life and residential commons program remains innovative and relevant to student development and higher education trends.
  • Promote Residence Life and Student Housing. Provide subject matter expertise and leadership within student affairs and across the campus community on known and emerging issues relevant to promoting student health and success in a residential setting.
  • Serve as a member of the Vice President’s leadership team of the Division of Student Affairs.
  • Support University activities and special events through attendance and/or participation.
     

Qualifications

Candidates for the position of Dean of RLSH must bring a personal energy and commitment along with professional maturity to the position. A Masters degree in higher education, related field, or an academic discipline is required. Experience requirements include a minimum of ten years of relevant experience, with at least five being in a leadership level, in a comprehensive on-campus housing operation within higher education.

Preferred Qualifications

  • Earned doctorate in higher education, related field, or an academic discipline.
  • Experience in major elements of residence life programs including facilities operations.
  • Prior higher education experience at the Director level.

Prior Experiences         

The candidate’s professional experiences should include:

  • Experience developing and directing academic programs in a residential setting.
  • Knowledge and experience working collaboratively with faculty, academic, and student affairs staff in support of student learning and development.
  • Demonstrated excellent management and program development skills including experience with strategic planning and the implementation of new initiatives. 
  • Proven short and long-term planning skills, coupled with the ability to manage multiple projects simultaneously. 
  • Experience managing complex budgets (including revenue and expense forecasts) and housing occupancy projections.
  • Evidence of successful collaborations with a wide range of stakeholders within and outside the university, including the ability to lead and manage change.
  • Track record of success working within an institution where maximizing student involvement in the life of the campus and enhancement of the quality of student learning and development outcomes are particular goals.
  • Success as a creative and innovative leader whose work is informed by effective strategic planning, assessment, and staff development.
  • Demonstrated commitment to social justice and student advocacy, including commitment to examining and providing solutions to barriers that students face within a system of higher education.
  • Demonstrated effectiveness and successful leadership as a culturally competent professional with broad experience interacting with and supporting the needs of diverse stakeholders, including staff and undergraduate and graduate student populations.
  • Demonstrated ability to develop and implement assessment plans, including the ability to use assessment results to improve the effectiveness of services and programs for students.
  • Extensive experience and evidence of outstanding success in determining appropriate staff size to ensure equity in hiring, training, developing, supervising, and assessing/evaluating staff performance in the achievement of division and unit goals.
  • Active participation and leadership in local, regional, and/or national professional organizations.

Knowledge and Competencies

The successful candidate will be a strong, outgoing, persuasive, charismatic, and articulate leader known for their fairmindedness, consistency, resourcefulness and creativity in developing and presenting sound and well thought out ideas. Additional attributes include:

  • Demonstrated knowledge about best practices in the profession, critical student issues, and theories related to Residence Life and Student Housing.
  • Ability to lead by example and keep campus leadership well informed on matters pertaining to the unit.
  • Reputation as an outstanding communicator and an inclusive decision-maker who is successful in being transparent with staff and students.
  • High emotional intelligence including the ability to recognize and make full use of the field expertise of staff members within Residence Life and Student Housing.
  • Proficiency in developing appropriate and relevant goals and objectives that are clearly linked to the mission of the division and the institution.
  • Knowledge of strategic and assessment planning and implementation.
  • Excellent, demonstrated direct- and matrix-leadership skills and capabilities, negotiation skills, and team-building behaviors in working with a wide range of opportunities and inherent challenges.
  • Strong planning and organizational skills, including ability to manage multiple relationships.
  • Personal characteristics associated with highly productive and successful professionals, including a vigorous work ethic, sound judgment, integrity, demonstrated initiative, attitude and personality to work effectively with colleagues, senior leadership of SMU, students, parents, and other stakeholders.
     

Measures of Success for the Position

At an appropriate interval after joining SMU, the following items will define success for the Dean:

  • The Dean has developed a strong working relationship with the vice president for student affairs that results in a shared vision for the SMU residential experience.
  • The Dean has developed strong working relationships with members of the Vice President’s Leadership Team (VPLT), and other campus stakeholders.
  • Effective collaborations with other Student Affairs departments and the Division of Academic Affairs have been established, leading to robust programmatic offerings and enhanced integration of academic programming in the Residential Commons.
  • A culture of accountability and collaboration exists within RLSH.
  • Effective collaboration will exist between RLSH and Facilities, with a strong emphasis on master planning and communication.
  • The Dean will have comprehensive knowledge of all aspects of the financial portfolio of the department and will have aligned resource allocation with strategic priorities.
  • Having assessed RLSH’s internal operations, the Dean will have implemented processes and procedures to improve effectiveness and enhance efficiency.

How to Apply

Interested candidates should send, as two separate documents, a resume and a letter of application that relates skills, abilities, knowledge, and professional experiences to the stated qualifications for the position and notable achievements. The packet should be sent to: DRLSH@wspelman.com  Recruitment is underway and will continue until the position is filled. Nominations and confidential inquiries should be made to Megan Spelman at (585) 750-7091 or megan@wspelman.com.

SMU will not discriminate in any program or activity on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, genetic information, veteran status, sexual orientation, or gender identity and expression. The Executive Director for Access and Equity/Title IX Coordinator is designated to handle inquiries regarding nondiscrimination policies and may be reached at the Perkins Administration Building, Room 204, 6425 Boaz Lane, Dallas, TX 75205, 214-768-3601, accessequity@smu.edu.

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