VP of Student Life Named 'Pillar' by NASPA

Dr. Ray Heath. Photo Credit: Marketing and Communications

By Heather Gazella
Staff Writer

The National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) is the foremost professional association for student affairs administrators, faculty and graduate students. The organization affirms the commitment of student affairs to educate the whole student and to integrate student life with learning. NASPA members serve college students by embracing the core values of diversity, learning, integrity, collaboration, access, service, fellowship, and the spirit of inquiry.

Marywood University’s commitment to student success and holistic education has not gone unrecognized. In November 2007, Dr. Raymond Heath, Vice President for Student Life, was named a ‘Pillar of the Profession’ by the NASPA Foundation. This award honors members who are considered individuals of professional distinction, who have served in leadership roles in NASPA, either regionally or nationally, and/or are being recognized or remembered by colleagues, friends, students, or student organizations for extraordinary service. Dr. Heath accepted the award at NASPA’s annual conference in Boston in March. The Wood Word recently talked with him about his accomplishments and what this award means for Marywood.

The award for his commitment to student life was modestly received as he pointed out that “In many ways, this award is in recognition of the entire University. All areas of the University assisted the Student Life Division staff support the University’s educational goals through services and activities to enhance student learning and personal development. The staff’s work and dedication, combined with the insight and leadership of Sister Mary Reap and many others, resulted in the many new facilities, policies and personnel that have had a positive impact over the last decade” Dr. Heath said.

Dr. Heath graduated from Providence College with an A.B. in English and later studied at Ohio State University where he earned a Ph.D. in Educational Policy and Leadership, and at the Institute for Educational Management at Harvard University, respectively. He was a Dean of Freshmen, Dean of Students and Vice President for Student Affairs at universities in Ohio and in Philadelphia before joining the Marywood community in 1996. His career as an educator also included serving as a secondary teacher/coach and as an adjunct university faculty member in addition to active involvement in various professional organizations.

When Dr. Heath became Vice President for Student Life at Marywood, he sought to return to what attracted him originally to his profession. “Student affairs work at a mission-focused small Catholic university includes many opportunities to influence student growth and the rewards realized through student success are distinct and very gratifying” he said adding that “our work is both very challenging and fulfilling.”

Dr. Heath is pleased to have had the opportunity to contribute to the enhancement of campus life at Marywood. “In the mid-1990s, a substantial commitment was made to raise the quality of student life. As the new millennium approached, Sr. Mary’s vision included major improvements in campus life for students. The challenge was to integrate the out-of-class learning experience into each student’s total education as a complement to the faculty’s excellent teaching. With the support of the Board of Trustees and the Cabinet, a more complete out-of-class experience was created through construction and renovation of several facilities, revisions to policies affecting student life and recruitment and retention of a strong staff to engage students. In the last few years, the student center, dining hall and several residence halls, combined with the Mellow Center and the new fields, have contributed to a vibrant student life corridor. Dr. Heath also added that “Improvements in the facilities and staff of the counseling center, student health services center, career services, disability services and the ACT 101 program have enabled many more students to achieve at Marywood.”

“A top quality comprehensive education is a shared goal of the faculty and administration. The primary importance of teaching and learning to the Marywood mission has been fundamental since the University was founded. Today an understanding of the more complete impact of the college experience and appreciation of differing learning styles that evolved from research after the turbulent 1970’s also guide our planning. Out-of-class learning experiences have the potential to be a major influence on students’ development of skills, values and beliefs that last a lifetime.” Improved student success and retention are recent indicators of the impact of the greater attention to this form of learning over the past several years at Marywood,” Dr. Heath said. “Reflections and surveys asking for student input and response suggest that most students are very satisfied with campus life. [Therefore], what we aspired to do is happening,” he added.

The goal today is to improve the quality of student life in every area. “Under Sister Anne’s leadership, an ambitious agenda is still being developed. Among the priorities so far are: completing a campus master plan; creating of a state-of-the art learning commons; increasing global awareness and understanding throughout the community; resolving the need for additional student housing; considering expansion of the athletics program; and, enabling the faculty and staff of campus ministry and other areas to provide more service learning and social justice opportunities that challenge students to grow and develop.” he said. “Enhanced student learning in every aspect of the Marywood experience is the goal that motivates us every day.”

On behalf of The Wood Word staff, congratulations on this marvelous achievement and commitment to your work and to your students!