New vice president for student affairs brings a fresh perspective to Canisius
Harold Fields, EdD began his work as vice president of student affairs and dean of students last month. He has gotten right to work, meeting students, attending club events and campus traditions as well as making his presence known around campus.
While much of being a college student revolves around academics and attending classes, Fields believes that academics aren’t everything when it comes to the college experience. Fields said, “Because as much as our academic offerings are a part of who we are, as much as our values are a part of who we are, the ways in which we engage and have fun, ways in which we learn and grow and expand our perspectives are also a part of who we are.”
It is no secret that over the course of the last three years, the position of vice president of student affairs has been a bit of a revolving door. Since 2019, there have been three individuals occupying the position. Despite this, Fields is ready to get to work at Canisius. He said that he chose Canisius as the place to take his next step because of the students, faculty and staff that make up the college. In previous positions he has held, he has had the opportunity to meet Canisius alumni and those relationships aided in his decision to apply for the position.
While Fields does not follow the Catholic faith, he said he feels a kinship with the Jesuit values that Canisius holds. “Many of my professional values align really well with the Jesuit values. A desire to see and help make our world more just as well as magis. I am very interested in continuous improvement.”
Canisius continues to face backlash and criticism from actions taken over two years ago regarding the termination of a large number of faculty and staff, which has left the college with a culture of mistrust. Fields aims at remedying this culture through appropriate transparency and strong communication. “I've got to find ways to not be a mystery. When people don't have adequate communication, they make assumptions. We make assumptions when we lack information and they often exacerbate our challenges and don't help us work through,” Fields said.
Short-term goals for the new vice president include getting to know the campus and its unique traditions as well as listening to the needs of the students and staff. Long-term, he is looking to update current systems at the college in order to better service the students. Fields said, “Innovation is thinking about processes and systems. They're not always fun. They don't always have the same splashy impact as a speaker series or concert or brand new campus event,” adding, “I hope to, over the course of this semester and into next semester, spend some time thinking about our processes and procedures, so that we can do our best to support students in their holistic health. So not just their physical health, their mental health, their emotional well being and their spiritual wellness as well.”
Overall, Fields is looking forward to getting settled in a new city and learning all he can about Buffalo and the Canisius community. He hopes he can help Canisius students find their place here as well. Fields said, “We know that in college in particular, finding a way to get involved and finding your people may be the thing that helps you do well academically, may be the thing that helps you come back to school after a tough semester. It's the thing that helps you ask for help when you need it.”