Alabama State University tapped Ronda Westry, Ph.D., Linwood Whitten, Ph.D./D.C., and Freddie Williams Jr., as the new assistant vice presidents of student affairs and enrollment management, effective November 15.
Westry, Whitten and Williams report to Derrick Brewster, Ed.D., who serves as the vice president of student affairs and enrollment management. All three spent the last year serving as interim vice presidents of student affairs and enrollment management.
“Ironically, all three assistant vice presidents (AVPs) have last names that begin with the letter ‘W,’” Westry said. The “3-W Crew,” a phrase established by Williams, is responsible for maintaining a campus environment that sustains and upholds student success through a collaborative process.
“When I was informed of the role that I would have and the units that I would manage, it was as if God presented me with the most perfect role I can have in higher education,” Westry said. “I could not have dreamed in my wildest dreams of a position that not only combines my professional experience; but the opportunity also speaks to my desire to serve others in a manner that empowers them to realize their highest potential.”
According to Westry, the university’s plan to combine the various offices into three distinct units was ingenious as it represents the strengths, knowledge and abilities each assistant vice president offers.
Managing the student success units, including academic advisement, academic labs, disability services, first/second year experiences, new student orientation, and counseling, Westry plans to follow the ASU’s Focus 2030 Strategic Plan precisely.
“For student success units, I plan to ‘foster an inclusive student-centered culture of seamless enrollment; holistic student engagement and development; academic excellence; and career preparation toward meaningful and gainful employment,’” she said.
Whitten hopes to continue elevating the student experience through various avenues while still collaborating with the Focus 2030 Strategic Plan. He oversees career services, student conduct, and student media in addition to diversity and international affairs, and Title IX compliance.
“I am excited to take on additional duties that will positively impact the campus community and to advocate for those students who need to be heard at the table,” Whitten said. “It brings me great pleasure to officially serve under Dr. Ross, who I believe values my unwavering commitment and expertise as a member of his executive team.”
“I hope to use experiential learning, co-curricular programming, and increase cross-campus collaboration by bridging communities. This will be achieved by incorporating student voices through data collected from the student satisfaction survey and the deliberate allocation of resources to amplify DEI programming on campus.”
In addition to promoting the Focus 2030 Strategic Plan, Whitten intends to collaborate with Brewster to share his institutional insight in the area of career services to provide students with better educational and career opportunities.
“I want to catapult students into the global workforce, advise them on their rights and responsibilities as community members through student conduct, educate campus stakeholders on updates related to federal programs such as Title IX and Visa and Immigration compliance, implement policies and initiatives to support diversity, equity and inclusion, and provide more innovative platforms through Student Media to serve as a sounding board for student news,” Whitten said.
“I am honored to help,” Williams said. “I applied because I wanted to continue to assist students. This promotion helps to extend my reach and can allow me to get things done quicker.”
In response to improving the customer service satisfaction rate at the university, Williams looks to create more obtainable office hours and call centers. He oversees the admission and recruitment process of freshman and transfer students along with the expanded responsibilities of all matters of student affairs.
“First, I would like to set up a one-stop-shop concept for new and current students,” he said. “This one-stop will have a call center-type atmosphere where people can get answers to quick questions and not have to wait for someone to call them back. Second, I would love to see adjusted office hours during peak periods to handle students/parents who may need help after 5 p.m. because they cannot come during the day.”
Westry, Whitten and Williams are happy to collaborate with Brewster as he has provided a clear communication channel and shares very similar goals. They all plan to address the student issues and concerns as it relates to each unit within the Division of Student Affairs.
“Dialog has been the key,” Williams said. “Dr. Brewster is a very student-centered vice president who shares some of my students’ well-being values, so I believe this relationship will yield success.”
Agreeing with Williams, Westry and Whitten believe that Brewster has showcased tremendous leadership as he allowed the various student affairs units to succeed at their goals.
“Within the short time that he has served, he has modeled a servant leadership approach which empowers the leadership team in student affairs to reach their highest potential,” she said.
“Working with team members who are dedicated to the mission and vision of student affairs is essential to the overall success of ASU and our students,” Whitten said, “and I think Brewster is the perfect person to lead the way.”
Though their responsibilities only expanded, Westry, Whitten and Williams coordinate, implement, and evaluate the university’s strategic plans and initiatives while advancing its mission to move the institution forward.
Westry brings more than 20 years of higher education experience to ASU, serving as junior and senior-level administrative positions. Throughout her tenure in higher education, she has successfully written over $15 million in grant initiatives that focused on retaining underserved, undergraduate students. She has received a number of awards, including a nomination from Auburn University’s College of Education for the Most Outstanding Dissertation Award in the social sciences.
Westry recognizes student engagement and success as the acknowledgement of who you serve and the values of the stakeholder you serve. She is approaching her fifth year at the university and has had ample time to learn and analyze the unique needs of the student body. So far, she has had the privilege to develop various student engagement initiatives addressing issues stemming from academic support and the other factors that play a part.
She is a proud alumna of Spelman College, earning her B.A. in political science. She received an M.Ed. in counseling and human development and a Ph.D. in higher education administration/adult education from Auburn University Montgomery and Auburn University.
Since 2005, Whitten has served in the realm of higher education. He recently served as the director of diversity and international affairs/Title IX coordinator before being named the interim assistant vice president of student affairs and enrollment management. In that position, Whitten was responsible for the advisement and management of both the F-1 and J-1 visa programs through the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) administration.
Additionally, he oversaw the diversity and inclusion initiatives on campus to ensure equality and equity for all underrepresented students, faculty and staff. His long list of accomplishments in his efforts to enhance student life is well acclaimed by several awards and accolades, including the Outstanding Contribution to Student Engagement Award from the Alabama chapter of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA).
“My innate ability to build meaningful relationships which forge partnerships to expand our institutional mission to be a global leader in higher education is phenomenal,” he said.
Whitten is a graduate of Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University. He received his master’s from Arkansas State University and his doctorate from Life University, both in higher education.
Whitten received two fellowships, the International Educational Fellowship and the H.E.L.F. Fellowship, allowing him to further pursue his second doctorate in higher education at the University of Southern Mississippi.
As director of admissions and recruitment, Williams improved the response time on admitting students to the university.
“We accomplished that significantly by getting rid of the paper application process and allowing students to complete applications using our online method,” Williams said. “This allowed our staff members to focus on transcript evaluation and admitting students. The other objective is improving our communication with our prospective students. Although I cannot take total credit for implementing a new customer relations management (CRM) system, I can say that I have been directly involved in seeing this process through.”
Williams declares his leadership style as someone who leads by example and believes his ability to put himself in the student’s place allows him to be successful.
“My philosophy is students first, so I promote that attitude to my staff,” he said.
Williams is a proud two-time alumnus of the university and is currently working on his doctoral degree at ASU.
“My goal in this new role is to continue to serve students,” he said. “And work with my co-assistant vice presidents Dr. Westry and Dr. Whitten (The 3-W Crew), to continue to move ASU forward.”