VP of Enrollment and Student Development finalist Lorretta Holloway speaks at open forum

Dr. Lorretta Holloway has accepted an offer to be FSU's Vice President for Enrollment and Student Development. (Photo by Allie Gath)

As a finalist for the job of Vice President of Enrollment and Student Development, Lorretta Holloway, who currently holds the interim position, answered questions at an open forum Wednesday, Feb. 17.

She is the second of three finalists to meet with the community. The third, Kara Kolomitz, will speak at an open forum Monday, Feb. 29 at 1:30 p.m.

Holloway was a professor in the English department for 15 years teaching at the undergraduate and graduate levels. She has also taught high school students in the College Tomorrow program.

Chief of Staff and General Counsel Rita Colucci said Holloway served on 15 committees across campus through the years and has worked in the K-8 system. Her current research is in international preparedness for college writing.

Holloway introduced herself as a first-generation college student. “That was something that both of my parents wanted for me. I know that was something my grandparents wanted for me.”

She said her grandfather was a great influence on her, and he “was and still is probably the smartest person I’ve ever met in my entire life.”

Holloway said whenever she is upset or wants to quit something, she thinks of the opportunities her grandfather lost because his father died while he was in eighth grade, which required her grandfather to drop out to take care of his family.

“When I really get angry and mad, I have to think about my grandfather, who clearly had a reason to hate people and didn’t hate a soul on the planet,” she said. “That story to me really encapsulates the kind of person I am …why I’m tough in some ways, and why I’m patient in other ways.”

Colucci asked Holloway about her experience with college readiness.

Holloway said she was president of the parent association and chair of the city-wide parent planning advisory council in Worcester and looked at what families needed to know about preparing for college from the perspective of both a parent and a professor.

She added she started participating in a parent advocacy program in Worcester and found some parents’ questions were “on things I automatically thought most people knew, and they just didn’t know. They didn’t know about placement tests. They didn’t know that so many students have to do remediation. They didn’t know what kinds of courses that people needed to take.”

Working as a liaison for student and parent orientation was important to help families understand what kinds of expectations college professors have along with answering questions from parents, she said.

Holloway was also chair for the Gifted and Talented Advisory Council for Massachusetts and looked into the struggles gifted students have going into college.

“They don’t necessarily know how to study well,” she said. “They don’t know how to fail because they’ve never failed. … They haven’t been challenged creatively or content-wise heavily so they, too, have sort of struggled with college readiness.”

Scott Greenberg, associate vice president for academic affairs and dean of continuing education, asked about the retention of first-generation students, adding, “I’d be interested from the perspective of your own personal experience, as your perspective as a tenured faculty member and your perspective from nine months in this position.”

Holloway said there is a need for higher education to “embrace” not just students, but their families as well. From her own experience, Holloway said when she was applying to college, she took out loans because her family didn’t have much money and some years, they were on Welfare.

“I always do the ‘mom test’ when I go into an office, or when I make a phone call. ‘Is this the kind of person that would be helpful to my mother if she went to ask a question?’ ‘What kinds of things did she not know to ask?’ I think about the types of scholarships I could have applied for and we could have received because we had no money that we had no idea about.”

She added if the University is going to service students, then offices should think about family needs and what parents should know to help their children in the application process who might not have the knowledge otherwise. Additionally, offices need to make families feel comfortable.

Dave Stender, associate director of Residence Life and Student Conduct, asked what skills Holloway will bring to the position. She said working with a wide range of students from high school to the graduate level helped her see different skills and needs students have.

She added she was very involved as an undergraduate, including being on the ice hockey team and being an RA. Since coming to teach at FSU, she has worked with SILD as a chaperone, which she said helps her see the importance of connecting student affairs and academics.

An audience member asked Holloway, “Specifically, how do you see those experiences helping you in this position and conversely, how could that impact negatively your abilities in your position?”

Holloway said sometimes hiring from the outside allows for “new blood” to help see things in a different way, and working with people in a different capacity and position could also have its difficulties.

However, she said it is sometimes positive to hire someone with experience of the institution because “in some ways, people know what they’re getting,” adding she is very honest and straightforward.

English Professor Elaine Beilin asked what Holloway has enjoyed about working as the interim vice president of enrollment and student development. Holloway said she likes how she never knows what to expect.

Holloway added she likes feeling as if she is making a difference and has been impactful.

Margaret Carroll, dean of STEM, asked, “If I give you my magic wand right now, you get to change something. What do you think would be the first thing you would fix?”

Holloway said she would fix any misperceptions there are between student affairs and academic affairs, adding there are misunderstandings about what the departments can or cannot do.

“If I could wave it and make it so people really knew that people in SILD knew what faculty members did during the day and if faculty knew what people in SILD did during the day, I think that would really solve a lot of the issues.”

Director of First-Year Programs Ben Trapanick asked Holloway what some of her “points of emphasis” would be during her first year should she be hired.

She said she would like to start developing a strategic enrollment plan, working with Jeremy Spencer, dean of enrollment management, and faculty members to look at the retention rates of FSU students from certain communities.

Holloway said, for example, if there are FSU students from the same community who are consistently not succeeding as well in math, then Framingham State could go to those communities’ high schools and see how to help them improve their students’ math skills.

She would also like to see translators available for campus tours so that families speaking languages other than English can participate as well.

A reporter from The Gatepost asked Holloway how she would increase student involvement on campus, and about the new 20-hour work policy for students.

She said, “It’s really looking at student schedules and looking at what are some of the structures we have on campus that may impede involvement.” Holloway added the University needs to create a culture where student involvement is the norm.

Holloway said another challenge will be convincing incoming students there are things to do on campus. “Increasingly, students are very passive, so they wait to be told [what there is to do],” she said, adding social and civic engagement is important. Students need to suggest specific ideas in order to prompt changes.

When asked to comment on a new policy that will limit students with on-campus University jobs to 20 hours per week, Holloway said there is a pilot program to test the policy to see what job descriptions can be exempted according to IRS rules. She added that right now, the administration doesn’t know which jobs could be exempted “because we never paid attention.”

Colucci asked what Holloway’s five-year plan would be as the vice president of enrollment and student development. Holloway said she would like the office to be more transparent to help students. She added even if offices get calls that aren’t related to their office, staff and faculty should know whom to call.

“The goal is for a one-stop answer. … The only way for us to get closer to that one-stop answer is for everybody to know what other people are doing,” she said.