When William Stackman heard of a sexual assault at Notre Dame University in 2010, he surveyed every student on campus.
The university-wide survey yielded 750 pages of data with student comments on sexual assault, which Stackman, associate vice president for student services at Notre Dame, said is essential to understanding a campus’ issues.
If hired as dean of students and vice provost at Pitt, Stackman said he would use the same attitude to tackle mental health, academic integration and diversity and inclusion issues on campus.
Stackman publicly interviewed for the position Thursday. Provost Patricia Beeson appointed Kenyon Bonner, former director of student life and associate dean of students, last January to fill the position in the interim. Bonner and Joanne Vogel, an associate vice president and dean of students, interviewed Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, and Cara Appel-Silbaugh, an associate dean of students at Georgia Institute of Technology, will interview Friday for the full-time role.
At his interview, Stackman said he motivates himself through cultivating resources to support students’ growth at universities around the country, including Tufts University, Temple University and Texas A&M University.
Through 30 years of experience working in student activities and services, Stackman said he noticed an often-overlooked dark side to campus life.
“There are many students who are not doing well. They are making poor decisions. They are hurting themselves. They are hurting each other,” Stackman said. “To intervene in a way that can help them to reflect and grow and become stronger, sometimes it means that we have to hold them accountable for what they do.”
Stackman shared a story of a student who, after realizing his mistakes, thanked Stackman for expelling him over a conduct issue.
“[The student] came back and told me that it was a real wakeup call,” Stackman said.
Lori Smith, Student Affairs manager and program administrator at Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health, said she appreciated how Stackman emphasized building a support system for students early on in his interview.
“He understands the complex nature of student affairs of our time and all the rapid changing issues that are impacting students’ lives,” Smith said. “Issues emerge quicker than anyone can anticipate. We can’t wait for situations to occur and react to it.”
Stackman said proactivity is only possible when university administrators recognize the connections between mental health, diversity and inclusion.
As the number of international students increases, Stackman said more and more of them struggled with mental health issues. He said paying attention to the needs of people who come from different backgrounds is vital to helping them feel welcomed and comfortable.
“So what we are doing right now is setting up a meeting with [the Office of] International Studies to talk about how to do more programming and outreach for our students,” Stackman said.“Diversity to me means that we do everything we could to make people feel welcomed, cared for and supported,” Stackman said.
Chyongchiou Lin, an associate professor at the department of family medicine at Pitt, said she appreciates Stackman’s attention to diversity and inclusion.
“[Inclusion] is also about how to take care of people from different backgrounds and help them adjust,” Lin said.
Lin said many institutions of higher education solely present diversity statistics, neglecting students from adverse or atypical backgrounds.
Stackman’s experience in multiple universities gives him a comprehensive perspective on student affairs, Lin and Smith both said.
Nasreen Harun, president of the Student Government Board at Pitt, said his diverse resumé sets him apart as a leader.
“He has seen so much in other schools,” Harun said. “There is no pattern for the schools he works at. I think he has a lot of experience, and that is what makes him different.”