Assistant News Editor
Denise Phillips has agreed to continue as the interim dean of student life for another year, a position she stepped into last Oct. 1 after the departure of Joe Cassidy.
“What I like best about the dean of Student Life position is working with students, so it’s a position where I’m meeting even more students and hanging out with the students,” said Phillips, who also will continue as head of Campus Ministry. “There are administrative things I have to do, but I love being with students, and that’s why they asked me to do it.”
John Plotts, vice president of Enrollment and Student Affairs, was assigned to work with Phillips. He concentrates on administrative and budget issues while Phillips focuses
on residence life and student activities.
“He has more experience with Student Life than I have, so he’s patient with my learning curve,” Phillips said. “He privately supports my decisions and also supports me publicly, and that is everything.”
Although Phillips was originally asked to try out the position until after the Christmas break, Plotts said Phillips found her niche in the Student Life office.
“She’s willing, and I think she was unsure of herself during those first three or four months, but she became more confident,” Plotts said. “She realized that she has some incredible talent that she maybe did not have a chance to express in the Campus Ministry venue.”
Phillips said that her dual roles forced her to become more organized and relaxed when making decisions.
“I pray more, so that gives me rest,” Phillips said. “It’s the best way for me to rest and relax during the day … and then get to the next thing.”
Phillips enjoys interacting with students more than anything, and invites students to come talk to her anytime.
“The students that I’ve talked to through judicial issues – I hope that what they’ve found afterwards, when all is said and done, and I see them on campus, it doesn’t blur or taint my opinion of who they are: people made in the image and likeness of God,” Phillips said. “Everybody makes mistakes, and I want them to be able to see that.”
President Thomas Keefe explained that the dean of Student Life should be someone who “is fair, is knowledgeable and is engaged with the students,” qualities that he finds in Phillips.
“The University of Dallas is a wonderful institution with a wonderful group of students, but a very special group of students, and it’s important [that] whoever is the dean of students understands the unique personality of our student body,” Keefe said. “She knows the special personality of this student body, and she embraces it.”