The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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CSUN VP of student affairs oversees student success

Spending most of his day in the University Hall Student Affairs office, Terry Piper is at ground zero for student life on campus.

“My sense is that I do make a personal connection with the students because of and through staff,” said Piper, 54, vice president of student affairs. “I can’t physically meet everyone. People who work in the student affairs (office) touch the lives of every student.”

Working alongside staff in order to tend to the needs of CSUN students gives Piper a sense that his office is making a difference.

“I go (to) every commencement. I get a sense of pride on seeing the graduates,” he said.

Piper, who has held his position since March 2001, said this journey of six years has been fun-filled. He said, “time goes by really fast when you are having fun.”

However, the past years have also involved lots of hard work and initiating lot of new things, according to Piper.

Piper conveyed the substance of his multifaceted responsibilities in few words.

“The job of vice president of student affairs is to provide leadership for (the) division of Student Affairs,” he said. “I work with other staff to translate mission and goals of the university into programs. We connect the student experience in the classrooms to reasons why this institution exists.”

Working with the staff and students who share immense “energy and desire for success” is the part of Piper’s position which he said he likes best.

But helping CSUN become a better place for students brings with it certain challenges. Piper said the hardest part of his job is dealing with the budget crisis.

“Some of those budget cuts came out of Student Affairs,” Piper said. “We couldn’t fill positions, couldn’t do things that we thought were important to do, couldn’t implement ideas. Students were increasing while the money was going down.”

But in the face of rising student tuition, and stagnant faculty wages, Piper remains optimistic.

“Fortunately, we are coming out of it. It is getting better,” he said.

With a doctoral degree in educational policy and leadership from Ohio State University, a master’s degree in student personnel work and higher education administration from the University of Iowa, and a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from Pennsylvania State University, Piper is no stranger to higher learning.

Prior to CSUN, Piper served as assistant vice president for student life at University of Nevada, Las Vegas for more than six years. He also served as director of residential life at UNLV. Piper’s resum? also includes working at the University of Iowa and Ohio State University.

In comparing his experience at CSUN with UNLV, Piper highlighted some similarities.

“Both have grown dramatically in less than 50 years of existence,” he said. “While missions are slightly different, both the universities are on similar paths. UNLV is slightly ahead of CSUN. Northridge lagged behind because of the earthquake.”

The responsibilities at CSUN, Piper said, are greater than those at UNLV. At UNLV, he oversaw housing, health services, disability programs and so on. At CSUN, he has “all those plus more.”

Piper’s passion for education started early.

“I was a community activist fighting with University of Pittsburgh while my wife was a student there,” he said. “The university owned a large number of apartment buildings on the edge of campus. They were allowing them to deteriorate, in my opinion, because the campus’s master plan showed academic buildings being built on that land.

“One day, I asked the vice president of student affairs, ‘How could I be in this position? It is easier to make change from inside than outside.'”

Piper’s journey toward being an active participant in the field of education had begun.

A resident of Sylmar, Piper has been married to his wife, Carolyn, for 33 years. Carolyn is a social worker, and according to Piper, she is “a helper type of person.”

Involved in similar fields, the Pipers try to keep their work lives separate from their personal lives.

“I think we have a lot of common values,” Piper said. “While our work is in different fields, there is a lot of commonality in it. We never really talk much about our work. I don’t want to relive my day, neither does she.”

Robin Ferguson, administrative assistant to vice president of student affairs, has worked with Piper since his appointment to the position. She calls her experience with him an educational one.

“He is a brilliant man,” she said. “He has taken our division far. Just watching him is a privilege. He has the ability to maintain and sustain a momentum.

“He has helped the division to fine-tune programs and serving to students in a manner that is aligned to university goals,” Ferguson said

When comparing Piper with former vice president of student affairs Ron Kopita, Ferguson said, “Dr. Piper came in with more of a cutting-edge approach to student affairs, student learning ? Dr. Piper is more progressive.”

William Watkins, associate vice president of student affairs, also spoke highly of Piper.

“I would say he is challenging in a very positive and invigorating way,” he said. “He has a very authentic and deep commitment to student success ? Like others who start at a new position and come to better understanding of (the) organization within which they work, he also has developed a better understanding of CSUN’s mission, values and goals, and his approach to leadership has been responsive to those insights.”

Recalling his years at CSUN, Piper said, “CSUN is a very different institution today. President (Jolene) Koester has provided leadership to put student success into (the) core of what we do. I have been fortunate to be a part of that.”

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