The Racquet

Newly Named Vice Chancellors Speak to Students

Ally Steele

Ally Steele

Ally Steele, Student Government Reporter

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This past Thursday both Barbara Stewart, Vice Chancellor of Diversity Inclusion and Vitaliano Figueroa, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Dean of Students met with UWL students. During this meeting they not only shared their journey to UWL but also advice and knowledge to students. 

Stewart has worked in student affairs for 27 years. Her former position at UWL was Associate for Diversity and Inclusion. She sought to pursue student affairs after being involved in it at Iowa State University. As Vice chancellor of Diversity and Inclusion, Stewart explained she has a lot of the same responsibilities as her previous position, Associate Dean of Diversity and Inclusion. She supervises staff, attends committee and board meetings.   

Figueroa explained his 24 years of experience in student affairs prior to coming to UWL. He led a variety of student affairs programs before and at one of the universities he was part of the talent development. This program provided support to low income and first-generation students.  

Figueroa also identifies as a first-generation student. Out of his 6 siblings he was the first to go to college. As Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, Figueroa attends a variety of meetings, but he also analyzes policies and procedures that impact students. 

On leadership style, both agreed that they have improved. Stewart stated, “I started out very naive about a lot of things. I understand situational leadership so much better.”

Figueroa, on the other hand, changed his approach to situations. He said, “I needed to learn how to be more sophisticated and how to have some challenging conversations in such a way where we could walk away from the situation and be okay.” 

Their advice for first generation students is to remind students to stay confident. Both Stewart and Figueroa are first generation students and came from low-income families. 

“I would say know that you can do it and know that there are other people that care about your success. And that they are willing to support you,” Figueroa said. 

Both Stewart and Figueroa spoke of their journeys, and how they have learned to become better at their jobs.  

Stewart said, “Even [with] the opportunities that don’t seem viable, always take a second look. Because the things that I thought were going to be great for me, some of them were not.”  

Figueroa said, “I would say that vulnerability is one of those things that you have to be open to, because sometimes you will try a couple of different things and some of them will be an extreme success, they are gonna be amazing, they’re gonna be wonderful and there will be other times where there are some challenges.” 

Both Stewart and Figueroa wanted to remind students that they are a resource on campus. Figueroa is holding open office hours on March 22 in Graff, room 149. More details, including the time will come later in an email to students. 

Afterwards, Collin Heyerdahl, a COVE employee, spoke on the imposter syndrome, a concept Stewart touched on during the meeting. As Stewart explained this syndrome can make first generation students feel out of place compared to other students, because college is a new experience for them and their families.  

Heyerdahl explained, “The imposter syndrome, I feel it all the time, every day. Like, am I supposed to be here, do I deserve this role? Do I deserve to work at the COVE,” he explained, “And just hearing that I do belong and that I’m working for what I have and I deserve it, is important too.” 

Stewart and Figueroa were able to not only share their experiences but were also able to give advice to students about being a leader and about life in general. 

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Newly Named Vice Chancellors Speak to Students