Worldwide search for new dean ends in Wisconsin

When Vice Chancellor of Affairs, Beth Hellwig and her committee narrowed their search for a new dean of students, they looked for compassion in job candidates, boiling down their search from 48 to four.

“We posted it in the chronicle of higher education that goes out all over the world,” Hellwig said. “And we also sent announcements to colleagues around the whole state in case they knew somebody who would be interested.”

Joseph Abhold won the job, taking over as UW-Eau Claire’s dean of students Sept. 1.

Before accepting the job at Eau Claire, Abhold was the director of the UW-Oshkosh Counseling Center. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Oshkosh and received his masters and doctoral degrees in clinical psychology from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. Having a Ph.D is not required as part of the job description but Hellwig said it’s preferred.

Hellwig said his exemplary education and progressive experience working in higher education at Oshkosh qualified him for the position.

From August 2010 to March 2011, he served as the interim dean of students at UW-Oshkosh, according to a press release.

Abhold’s knowledge of statewide policies and procedures working within the system at Oshkosh gave Hellwig even further reason to believe he was the right person for the job.

“I was hoping to have somebody by Sept. 1,” Hellwig said. “I think he’s going to be able to step in and hit the ground running.”

Some of his responsibilities include supervising the Student Health Center and Student Senate. He’ll also serve on the chancellor’s cabinet and respond to crisis management and student discipline issues.

From the student body president to a student dealing with grief and loss, many will make their way to Abhold’s office.

“He’s been a director of a counseling center,” she said. “You have to have a lot of talents and skills and problem solving.”

As for his reaction to being chosen for the position, Abhold said he’s thrilled.

“I’m really looking forward to getting to know the Eau Claire community,” he said.

Freshman health care administration major Mason Narel said Abhold’s experience in counseling makes him more approachable when seeking support for problems.

“Most kids would go to the dean of students whether they had an issue regarding attendance or something involving academics,” he said. “With his background in counseling, students can go to him with issues other than academics, if they’ve experienced loss of a loved one or they are homesick.”

Getting to know students and hearing about their needs are among his top priorities and also the biggest challenge that lays ahead, Abhold said.

“I’d like people to introduce themselves to me and talk with me and let me know who they are and what they are doing and how they are involved and how I may be able to assist them in working together to make campus a better, more successful place,” Abhold said.

Abhold said developing a culture of support and challenge for students where everyone in the community feels like they have a responsibility to each other to make the campus a better place and to help everyone to succeed is his ultimate goal.

“To me, that’s the most exciting aspect of being an administrator in higher education,” he said. “You have the opportunity to do fun and creative things with smart hardworking people, and that’s really cool.”