First candidate for senior vice president of student affairs pitches the idea of leadership development


Peter Gitau, who holds a doctorate in higher education policy and administration, is currently the vice president for student affairs at Dixie State University and the first of four finalists. Gitau will participate in virtual interviews June 29 and July 1.

Mia Wang

The first candidate for the position of senior vice president for student affairs pitched the idea of developing student leadership in an open forum Wednesday.

Peter Gitau is the current vice president for student affairs at Dixie State University and the first candidate for the position of senior vice president of student affairs. 

After nearly seven years of dedication to Iowa State students, Martino Harmon, who served as the last senior vice president for student affairs, has moved onto his next adventure at the University of Michigan as the vice president of student life.

Erin Baldwin, assistant vice president for student health and wellness and director of the Thielen Student Health Center, has been serving as the interim senior vice president since June 5.

Gitau’s presentations focused on student engagement, a nurturing environment and inclusive campus. He said an effective division of student affairs should serve critical functions of driving a vibrant campus life program, creating nurturing environments that support student learning, supporting student success, championing inclusiveness and embracing assessment.

Gitau said engagement drives student learning and success. Student engagement is what students do — time and energy devoted to educationally purposeful activities, plus what institutions do — using effective educational practices to induce students to do the right things.

Gitau said embracing an inclusive and dynamic approach to programming is critical and engaged students are more likely to succeed academically. He also said to strengthen student clubs and organizations while addressing space and logistical issues.  

“We should invest in leadership development and create programs ‘with,’ not just ‘for’ students,” Gitau said. 

Gitau also brought up that the division should adopt and imbed a cocurricular syllabus into the regular syllabus and offer extra credit opportunities for collaborating with faculty.

Gitau said student engagement with faculty outside the classroom is also crucial. The division should encourage faculty-student mentoring, invite faculty involvement in living-learning communities and enhance the role of faculty as advisers to registered student organizations.

“Strengthen services learning, study abroad and community engagement [by involving] faculty in the student conduct process and be a resource to faculty on student behavior,” Gitau said. 

Gitau said providing sustained and strategic attention to vulnerable student groups is the key to a more inclusive campus.

In the end of his presentation, Gitau said his visions can be achieved by investing in partnerships, relationships and collaborations.

Gitau is one of four candidates for the position. Each candidate will be announced one day before their visit.

Jason Pina, vice president for student affairs at Ohio University, is the second candidate and will be participating in a virtual forum 1 p.m. Thursday. Online public forums will take place on Webex, the second day of each visit and the forum links will also be available on the Office of the President’s website.