Vice Chancellor Shannon Finning talks about the school’s future, her past, and the Dells

By Staff Writer Seth Tamarkin.

With a new faculty member joining the UMass Dartmouth community, it only seemed right to interview the school’s new Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, Shannon Finning, on everything from her prior experience, her goals for the school in years ahead, and of course, the situation in the Dells.

Starting with an introduction to students and faculty alike, the mom of a six-year old said, “As a native of southeastern MA, joining this community feels like coming home in many ways, and I am committed to providing a private college experience at a public university value to continue to advance the future of our students and region.”

From there, The Torch inquired what exactly a Vice Chancellor does. In addition to “providing leadership” to almost every major department of the school, she also oversees a “comprehensive Student Affairs organization with a $40 million annual budget and [is] responsible for division-wide strategic planning, assessment, and staff development.”

That’s a hefty task, so The Torch was curious as to how her prior experience helped her prepare for that.

For the better part of ten years she worked from Bridgewater State, to Clemson University, to Springfield College before joining UMass Dartmouth.

“I was proud to be part of a leading dynamic change at Clemson that helped contribute to their recognition as a top 20 public institution – and I would bring that experience to here, along with my experience working in a system and working effectively with unions in both public and private institutions, working with diverse populations in a wide range of settings, as well as my knowledge of and love for the region.”

Next, The Torch asked why she decided to leave Springfield College after three years as the Vice President of Student Affairs.

There were two reasons she cited.

One reason was so their family could be closer to their extended family who live along the South Coast.

The other was that there “were limits” to what a private university like Springfield could achieve considering she wanted to serve a “public, research university.”

Now that she is at a public university, The Torch wondered what plans she had for UMass Dartmouth’s future.

She responded with several initiatives that are already underway, including efforts to “improve late night and weekend programming” as well as an Instagram account (@umassdstudents) to “amplify the voices of our students” and a SAIL survey to solicit student feedback.

Interestingly, the Vice Chancellor also aims at “moving our Police Department to more of a community policing model and to advancing efforts to prepare all graduates of UMass Dartmouth for the Future of Work.”

Speaking of policing, she was then inquired about her vision for the Dells in the upcoming months.

“I would like to see a vibrant residential community where residents are able to have more control over who shares the community with them,”

She stated, but also “while understanding they are still responsible for conducting themselves in manners consistent with the University’s code of conduct. We want students to have fun and be safe – the two are not mutually exclusive!”

On top of that, she would like some of the measures to remain permanent but did not specify which, saying “I look forward to receiving recommendations from the working group about how best to move forward.”

Part of residents having control over who shares the community is making sure their voices are heard, so The Torch questioned how they plan to do that.

She referenced the town hall-style meeting that was held a few weeks ago with Cedar Dells residents but mainly the working group they instituted which consists of the student trustee, the SGA president, four Cedar Dell residents, two resident directors in Cedar Dell, the director of housing “and residential education, and the captain of the UMass Dartmouth Police Department.”

They are tasked with finding solutions to the volatile situation including holding follow- up meetings, understanding options for payment for CD parking passes, reviewing options regarding shuttle access to the Dells, and make recommendations to VCSA by October 31.

Finally, in the spirit of spooky season, The Torch had to know what her favorite horror movie was.

Her response? “My favorite classic horror movie is Psycho – my favorite recent horror movie is Get Out. That said, I much prefer comedies!”

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