Santiago Solis said if he gets the job and replaces K-State’s Dean of Students Pat Bosco, he’ll happily move himself and his Chihuahua, Diego, to campus.
Solis was the second of three candidates interviewing for the position of vice president for student life and dean of students to replace Bosco, who will retire at the end of the school year.
Solis serves as the associate vice president for student affairs at Towson University in Maryland. He said if he got the job, he would consider new marketing strategies for the area to help attract more students.
“I told people I was applying for a job at K-State and they asked ‘Why? It’s in the middle of nowhere,’” Solis told the audience at a forum. “It’s all about the lens you look at it with. I told them, ‘It’s in the middle of somewhere, because people live and work and study there.’”
He said he wouldn’t try to change everything about K-State, but wanted people to consider different strategies to get people more excited to go to school there.
“Your land-grant history is great and that may be a way to market it,” he said. “But in certain areas, that may not work, so what else can we use? For me, I noticed you have a beautiful campus. To me, it’s a hidden gem. Maybe we don’t say it’s the hidden gem of Kansas, maybe it’s of the Midwest.”
Solis said his focus would be on accessibility in all forms. He mentioned that the K-State app for cellphones is not user-friendly, which is a problem in recruiting young people.
He said he started something at Towson that he would consider bringing to K-State to help with families. In addition to the standard orientation for students, Solis started a Spanish open house where families could hear all the information from financial aid and other departments in their native language, as well as hearing from Latino students who have experienced the process before.
“It’s very important to grow support,” he said.
Solis said as an immigrant and first-generation student, he almost failed out of college because he didn’t know the best way to go about the process. However, he got through it and made it a goal to help underrepresented communities.
He said he has ideas that could help get more students into the school, like bringing in a group of 10 to 20 students from low-income areas each year with softened admission criteria to get them involved. He also said he’d want to work with nontraditional students and their families to get them invested in the school.
“We do programs suited for their kids,” Solis said. “They bring their young families to campus. That way we’re already educating kids that they belong in a higher education institution and they’re more comfortable. I always try to be family oriented.”
Solis said in the last few years, he began to get pulled away from students with the responsibilities of his job and the committees in the area he’s involved in. He said he realized how much he didn’t like that and wanted to get back to the students. That’s when he got Diego.
“Students are always looking down at their gadgets and don’t say hi,” he said. “I asked myself, how can I change that? I thought, ‘I’ll bring Diego to campus.’ Students are naturally attracted to puppies. They ask him questions he can never answer, it’s my opportunity to respond and introduce myself. … If I’m hired, Diego is coming.”
Thomas Lane, associate vice president for student life and dean of students at Missouri State University, and Derek Jackson, associate vice president for student life at K-State, are the other two candidates for the position.
Lane interviewed Monday while Jackson is scheduled to interview at 1 p.m. Thursday at the K-State Alumni Association.