Third candidate for vice president of Student Affairs says mental health should be a top priority


Toyia Younger, vice president for leadership development and partnerships for American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), is the third candidate for the position.

Mia Wang

The search for the next Iowa State senior vice president of Student Affairs continues. Toyia Younger, vice president for leadership development and partnerships for American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), is the third candidate for the position.

Younger delivered a 26-minute presentation in a virtual open forum Wednesday focusing on reimagining Student Affairs and adjusting to the new normal.

Younger said the world has changed so much in the past several months. She said she thinks the university’s focus remains true on serving students to the best of the institution’s ability but the “how” is now changed.

“How we go about serving our students and what manner,” Younger said. “We have to pause for a minute and consider many of the policies that are going to impact our students.”

In the presentation, Younger brought up the impacts COVID-19 has on students and universities. She said Student Affairs has to consider what it could do to address some of the changes.

“COVID-19, which causes us not only to pause but completely pivot and change the way we do work,” Younger said. “We went overnight from teaching classes and attending classes to taking classes online. Many students said they don’t have the technology and resources available to take online classes.”

Younger said COVID-19 will continue to impact what it looks like to return to campus this fall.

“What the social distancing looks like on campus with 30,000 plus students,” Younger said. “How are we going to interact with each other? These are the changes that will impact not only the students but all individuals throughout the campus, and this is something we in Student Affairs need to pay close attention to.”

Younger said differences between free speech and hate speech is also something Student Affairs needs to address because protests and demonstrations against systematic racism are happening nationwide. As an institution, Iowa State has to be prepared for some of the activities to occur on campus.

“Use this as an opportunity to inform our students to support our students in the way they express themselves but also let them know that there is a difference between hate speech and free speech,” Younger said. “And let them know what is truly covered by the First Amendment.”

Younger then said mental health should be the top priority for Student Affairs.

“I can only speak for myself the toll both mentally and emotionally even spiritually this time of quarantine has taken on me,” Younger said. “I can imagine the mental health challenges and well-being has been under attack. This is something we have to be very considerate of.”

Younger found her passion for serving students through her work in a community college where she had to guide students to accommodate to four-year colleges. Younger’s Ph.D. research also focused on transferring students and how to help them adjust and make that transition successfully from the community college to a four-year institution.

Younger has experience working with students from community colleges to national associations. After working for American Association of State Colleges & Universities for four years, she wants to go back to campus.

“My heart has always been with the campus,” Younger said. “It is for this reason that I made the decision to start looking for jobs and return to campus.”

Nearly two decades of experience in higher education, Younger has experience both in student affairs and academic affairs.

“As I also mentioned I have experience at the national level, which brings a new lens and new perspective on how I view not only policies as they pertain to students but the way that I view institutional culture,” Younger said. “I’m really passionate about student success. My goal in life is to see students succeed. I understand what education and particularly higher education did for me, and I will support my students to achieve their goals in life.”