BY ELIZABETH COBB, Staff Writer
As some of you may know, our Vice Chancellor, Stanley Henderson, has announced that he’s retiring after dedicating the last ten years of his career to making University of Michigan-Dearborn a great place to be. I interviewed him in hopes to help all of us really understand what an impact he’s made on our school and thank him for it; his responses and passion are assuring that his shoes will be hard to fill.
Before Stanley Henderson was made Vice Chancellor in 2005, he already had an impressive résumé, to say the least. He started in higher education as an Admissions Counselor at (dare I say it) Michigan State University in the fall of 1970. Within a year, one of his mentors was hired as the Dean of Admissions and Records at Wichita State University, in Kansas. He then hired Henderson as Director of Admissions at WS.
“I was the youngest Director of Admissions at an NCAA Division I school in the country,” Henderson told me during our interview, “Looking back, I was pretty full of myself and probably wasn’t the easiest person to work for.”
In 1984, he became the Director of Admissions at Western Michigan University and later became the Director of Enrollment and Admissions management there. From WMU, he became the Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management at the University of Cincinnati in 1995. And in 2003, he moved again to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he was the Associate Provost.
“While I was in these positions, I was also active in my national professional organization, the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO), serving on their Board of Directors and becoming President of the association in 1995. In 1994 I was chairing a national conference on Strategic Enrollment Management that I co-founded. The University of Cincinnati was building a new organization for enrollment management,” Henderson said, “They used what they learned at the conference to design the lead position for this new organization that became my position there. It pays to be involved in professional associations.”
Finally, in 2005, he came to the University of Michigan – Dearborn.
“A friend, and colleague, was working with UM – Dearborn as a consultant and helped the campus develop a new job description for the Vice Chancellor position. He knew I was looking for a change from where I was and called me to say he thought the job was a great match for me,” said Henderson, “When I read the description, I saw a real fit with my skill set and my passion to work with students.”
“I started on April 4, 2005, which happened to be my 35th wedding anniversary. My wife sent Maize and Blue flowers to my new office. She asked for “blue and maize” and the flower shop staff person corrected her, “That’s maize and blue.”
So, what was this great new job at UM-Dearborn? What does being our Vice Chancellor entail? Not totally sure myself, I asked Henderson.
For the past ten years, VC Henderson has been responsible for the Division of Enrollment Management and Student Life (of EMSL), which includes the following offices: Admissions and Orientation; Financial Aid; Registrar’s Office; the Student Success Center, which includes, Career Services, Counseling and Disability Services, Academic Support, and the Women’s Resource Center; Office of Student Engagement; Ombuds Services—An Ombuds is someone who helps people to informally resolve conflict by facilitating communication to help all parties reach mutually satisfactory solutions. Ombuds may also provide coaching and education to help their visitors effectively manage conflict over time; Office of International Affairs; Athletics; the English Language Proficiency Program; and Enrollment Research and Analysis.
Henderson and the program staff work with the Chancellor, other Senior Officers, and the Deans to help meet the goals of our university: grow our enrollment, build student engagement, achieve academic excellence, and ensure metropolitan impact.
“When I came to UM – Dearborn, I felt this was such a different place from other campuses where I had been,” Henderson said, “As I thought about what that difference was, I decided it was because UM-Dearborn was a community of higher education, not just an institution of higher education. I started talking about that difference and what it entailed—how in a community you would be a member, a participant, a contributor rather than just being passive in an institution where things happen to you. In a year or so, students started quoting me, “As Vice Chancellor Henderson says, ‘we are a community.’” My ego liked that, but the high point of my time here came when students stopped quoting me and started saying, “We are a community at UM-Dearborn.” That meant they had internalized the concept. They weren’t ascribing it to me—they had made it their own view of our campus. That is now a part of the campus ethos. It will last after I’m gone, and those future students will make their own impact.”
“Much of the work I do here at UM-Dearborn couldn’t happen if I was the only one involved. It takes so many staff and faculty–and students–to accomplish virtually everything we do, but there are some things that I contributed to that I am very proud of. Our freshman enrollments have grown 39 percent in the last ten years. There are significantly more students of color on our campus now. I think LGBTQ students feel more supported on campus. We have worked hard to become a veteran and military friendly campus. A Culture of Service has developed among our students, and the CIVIC has helped to focus that culture. We have student housing right across Evergreen Road, including the Victors Den for more student engagement space (I say it’s just like a third floor of the UC only slid across Evergreen). There are far more opportunities for student engagement now. All of the offices in Enrollment Management and Student Life understand that they are about student academic success. No matter whether we are in Student Engagement or Athletics or Career Services or Women’s Resource Center or Financial Aid, or any other of the EMSL offices, we are here to help students be successful academically,” Henderson told me, “Perhaps a student athlete is so passionate about her participation in volleyball that it’s what keeps her coming to class and getting her course work done. Maybe being in student government is so important to a student that he sees how he has to succeed in his classes in order to be able to continue in SG. That connection to academics is so important.”
He expressed how he also hopes he is a form of support to students across campus. “I believe in our students, share their hopes and dreams, have confidence they can achieve those ambitions. I get energized by our students and what they accomplish.”
A television reporter interviewing Henderson called him “a Dad to 9,000 students.” Henderson followed up with, “I’m not sure our non-traditional students would see it that way, but I do sometimes think I’m cheerleader-in-chief for our students. It’s a privilege both to have high expectations that all our students will make a difference and then to celebrate when they do.”
Vice Chancellor Henderson has inspired every student he has encountered. Even at my freshman orientation, his brief speech changed the whole atmosphere of the morning; everyone was instantly more comfortable with each other. He makes it clear that he’s just as excited about your journey at UM – Dearborn as you are. I was curious as to who inspired him. How does one come upon a job in admissions and enrollment at a university?
Henderson said he was first inspired to assume his career path by Dr. Gordon Sabine, who was a Vice President at Michigan State when he was a student there. He hired Henderson as a Student Orientation Leader and then as one, of two, Student Orientation Directors (called Chief Spartan Aides).
“I think a lot of my interactions with students are based on what I learned from him,” said Henderson.
Another major role model for Vice Chancellor Henderson is Dr. Russell Wentworth, who was the Dean of Admissions and Records who hired him at Wichita State.
“The folks I work with in EMSL have benefited from what he taught me about how to help people reach their goals,” Henderson told me, “These two had very different personalities, but inspired me (and hundreds of others they worked with over the years) to reach for excellence in everything I did, to have confidence in myself, and to inspire others. They changed my life. Every day I catch myself doing something that I learned from one or the other of them. Both of them were exceptional speakers and I learned so much about speaking from them. They taught me how to lead, how to appreciate those I worked with, how not to accept anything but the best, and how to get both meaning AND enjoyment out of my work.”
Vice Chancellor Henderson is, fortunately, very much looking forward to retirement.
“I have seen colleagues who stayed in their positions too long and people around them ended up wanting them to go.” Henderson told me, jokingly, “A friend told me once, “It’s better to have more people crying when you go than cheering when you go. I always remind students at Commencement that they are leaving us behind. Now I get to “graduate” and move on.”
The VC and his wife plan to remain in the area, but are looking forward to lots of travel: seeing their children and grandchildren in Salt Lake City and Cincinnati, and even more kids and a “grand-dog” in Muskegon, and on to more exotic places. He also plans to do consulting with the AACRAO, and hopefully do some writing about what he’s seen and learned over the years.
Not quite sure yet who will fill the new opening, there will be a search for the next Vice Chancellor. Chancellor Little will share information about the search process in the near future.
Henderson says, “As I look back on my career, I see that I had a path that kept taking me to larger and more complex campuses—where I increasingly had less contact with students and had less opportunity to affect change. Those places were supposed to define my career accomplishments, but along the way I realized that I needed to be where I could interact with students, where we might energize each other, where I felt I could make a difference. That place was the University of Michigan – Dearborn and being Vice Chancellor—the Students’ Vice Chancellor—has been the greatest privilege and honor of my career.”