Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Q&A with Vice President of Auxiliary Enterprises Vennie Gore

September 15, 2020
<p>Vice President of Auxiliary Enterprises Vennie Gore provided by Kathleen Duncan</p>

Vice President of Auxiliary Enterprises Vennie Gore provided by Kathleen Duncan

So who is Vennie Gore?

Gore was recently tasked with heading the student affairs department at Michigan State after the long-tenured Denise Maybank accepted the position as interim vice chancellor for student affairs and enrollment management at her alma mater, the City University of New York. Gore currently holds the position of Vice President for Auxiliary Enterprises and was recently recommended to the Board of Trustees to be promoted to Senior Vice President by Michigan State President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. in an email to students and staff. 

In his 13 years at Michigan State, Gore has been in charge of operations at the dining halls, on-campus housing, the Breslin Center, the indoor tennis facility and other MSU buildings and operations on campus.

As Stanley announced the reevaluation of the long-term structure of the department, Gore stepped in to discuss what he envisions for the future of student affairs.

What was your reaction to being tasked with this new role?

We've (auxiliary enterprises) always had a really good partnership with student affairs. We work really closely. So, when the President asked me to take on this role it seemed like a natural thing and the right thing for the institution at this point. I'm excited about it.

What are you looking forward to working on in this interim-like role?

I think the first thing that I need to do is get to know the division and the work they're doing. I know of it, I don't know it really well. I think that's sort of the first thing that I want to be able to do. I just want to get to know what the team is doing and what roles or relationships they have with folks and slowly, surely start to work my way through.

President Samuel L. Stanley mentioned in his email to students that you and Provost Teresa Woodruff would be evaluating the long term structure of the student affairs department. What are some of the things that could be changed in the department?

The message yesterday was to do an assessment, so we're gonna do an assessment. We'll do our tests, we do a five-year assessment of all our units. It rotates every five years with various different units and there's an internal view, in which there's a set of class standards and they're called the Council of Advancement Standards. It's a set of standards and there's a project team that comes together and they look at those standards and think about where they are relative to that.

Then the second part of that is we have an external review where we have people who come from other institutions. They look at that data and then they interview people and make observations. I think based on that, we'll see what the unit should look like and what it feels like.

One of the things that your predecessor Dr. Maybank did was help put together the COVID-19 relief fund through the federal CARES act. Could there be more COVID-19 relief for students sometime this year?

I would say that one of the things that was really good about that was that the CARES act provided some funding. There was some other additional funding that was available, I need to find out how much is left from them and whether those grants will be available for students. I know a lot of different colleges and departments also contributed too. So there may still be some thoughts. There were quite a bit of students that really benefited from that. We want to make sure that we are very thoughtful as we think through.

We’re in a new era with COVID-19, so how will student affairs continue to set-up events for students during the pandemic?

We've been looking at hybrid sort of models on programming and the resident assistants are doing the same thing. The governor has a limit of nine people indoors and hundred people outdoors, and then also there is a limit that's been put on by the city. We need to find the right modality, how to do this safely for people to be able to get together, because they need something. I think people come to college they want to grow and develop. They want to interact with folks. They want to be part of clubs, they want to do all those things. As we think about. I think as a group we got to be creative with how we provide those club activities or student activities for people to be engaged.

Mental health is a huge issue during this pandemic, especially for college students missing out on the college experience. What are some ways that you could look to address that?

Mark Largent and our resident education staff are now working on what we call circles of success, and it is extending out to the first-year students who aren't here in a virtual format. I think one of the things that we talk about a lot in our unit is this whole notion around COVID as psychological safety and what we mean by that is that there are some parts of us as humans, dealing with this disease, and how we respond to it. I think absolutely it's going to be one of the things that we partner with CAPS and Olin in providing students with those experiences.

You’ve played a large part in the development of the upcoming MSU Multicultural Building so far. What are some of the goals you have for this project?

I think one of my first goals is to support students. This was a student-led initiative and we want to make sure that we support the students that are in it. It has to be a place that students feel that they have a home. 

I have been very appreciative and very impressed that the group of students who are working on it aren’t just thinking about today, but they're thinking about the future. They also want to make sure that the center has a lasting impact on future generations. We want to support that. When I look at what students have said, they want a place that they can feel is home safe, that has a lot of activity, that it is a place for students to connect.

This article is part of our Living a Remote Life print edition. View the entire issue here.

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