Vice president of student success’ retirement marks the changing of times
By Valerie Velikaya
The vice president of student success and engagement has seen it all. After three decades of being a part of the growth and development of the campus community, Dennis Day is stepping down. He discussed what he’s looking forward to upon his retirement, reminisces on his first day and reveals his anticipations for the future.
How would you summarize your experience at the college?
Some would summarize it as too long [laughs]. It’s been a varied journey of different positions and getting to see the college grow as an institution.
What are you looking forward to upon retirement?
Are there any particular things that you’ll miss the most about the school?
Well, I will miss students. I enjoy the interaction with students. They are stimulating and challenging all at the same time.
Any fond memories here?
Oh, sure. There’s lots, lots of fond memories. When you’ve been here that long, you get to meet a lot of different people — students and staff that are enjoyable and it’s not that I’ll miss them because I’m sure I’ll interact with some of them, but the thing that … I will miss the most are those next relationships that I won’t get to do with students and staff.
What is your goal before retirement?
To make sure that everything is functioning. They shouldn’t miss me nor would they miss me.
Talk about your first day at the college.
My first day was in 1984. It was in January. It was the first day of [the] spring semester, and I walked into the student activities area — I was director of student activities, and I met the students and administrative assistant for the first time; introduced myself and said, ‘What are we planning?’ And from there on, we just started putting our heads together and coming up with the best programs that we could come up with.
What kind of particular programs did you guys develop throughout your 31 years of serving the college?
Well, we had a speaker series where we brought in a lot of different speakers on campus like Dr. Ruth and Timothy Leary — all those are old people now, but at the time they were rather interesting people. Dr. Ruth talks about sex so we had a standing room only for her. It was good for this age group. Then we took some programs to the hallways in different buildings, trying to publicize the activities, which was somewhat successful because we did programming where students work. Anytime you do that then you find them.
I came from a university and it was trying to figure out how to reach community college students because in the university where you have residents, you have a built-in audience. With a community college students, you’re dealing with priorities; life at home, life at work, life at school, life with relationships so you’re always competing for their priorities.
How has the college transformed from your first day?
Well, it’s certainly grown. We started, and it was about 6,000 students and now it’s 20 [thousand]. The complexity of the operation is far more complex now certainly and larger, but in many ways the same. College students have many of the same needs. Just more of them.
What do you hope the college improves upon after you leave?
I hope the college continues to just change with the times to meet student needs. Students’ basic needs are still the same, but it’s how those needs are delivered and how they access those needs will change. Technology is a big one. You’re much more immediate and less patient.
What piece of advice would you give to your successor?
Concentrate on the open petal.
Will you still be making appearances after your retirement?
Once I leave it’s probably best that I leave, and I’ll be going into the next phase of my life. Whatever that is.
What is the best part about teaching at a community college?
The best part about being at a community college is that you really have an impact on lives, and you understand that you can’t take advantage of that situation because it comes with a great deal of responsibility. Any decision on policy or procedure affects students, and you always have to be cognizant of the affect decisions have on the students.
Day’s final day will be Wednesday, Dec. 31.