A candidate for the vice president of academic affairs wants to support students by creating connections between departments, faculty, staff and students at Highline.
“Part of my strength is that I’m a connector,” said Dr. Johnny Hu, the interim dean of Academic Programs at South Seattle College and one of the VPAA finalists. “I really do see my job as basically bringing people together, to connect people, and often people who might not agree on every issue.”
One way he wants to support students is by supporting faculty and connecting them with tools to be successful, and other ways to communicate with students outside of the classroom.
“My role as vice president is to advocate for students but specifically through working with faculty. That means providing faculty with the tools they need to be successful in the classroom, providing them opportunities to maybe set up spaces to engage with students in an outside of the classroom environment.”
Since he will be working primarily with faculty, and they have a more direct connection with students, he wants to make sure the faculty know about all of the resources that are available for students so that students can then connect with those resources and use them.
During this time of dealing with a pandemic, some of those resources include emergency funds, United Way, Benefits Hub, and the Highline food pantry.
Another way Dr. Hu wants to support students is by creating a connection between the Academic Affairs department and the Student Services department.
“I often think faculty in academic affairs work with students in the classroom, whereas student affairs provide the support, and the outside support, in order for students to be able to be successful in their classes,” Dr. Hu said.
With a connection between the departments, they would be able to assist students both in and out of the classroom while being on the same page as each other.
“In some ways, the work is the same for both divisions. The ultimate job is to support students and make sure that students complete and are able to be successful in their degrees, programs, [and] classes,” Dr. Hu said.
From his experience at South Seattle College, Dr. Hu has noticed that the faculty don’t have a shared understanding with the budget office about the budget. At Highline, he wants to work with the budgeting office to make sure that the faculty and the budgeting office have that shared understanding.
While connecting departments, faculty to departments and to students, Dr. Hu also would like to connect students to each other, specifically international and U.S. students.
When he taught at Highline, he participated in the Conversation Pal program, in which international and U.S. students were paired together. The U.S. students would help international students practice English.
Dr. Hu found that this helped international students to build relationships with the students and create connections.
Dr. Hu taught at Green River College, Highline, and Whatcom College. He made the switch from being a professor to being an administrator after participating in leadership roles at Whatcom and then being encouraged by mentors to pursue working in administration.
He said that he realized he has “even more to give than just teaching in the classroom.”
Before teaching at Highline, Dr. Hu was part of the community that surrounds Highline, as he is from Federal Way and graduated from Decatur high school.
Coming from the community that Highline serves, he feels that Highline is his home.
Dr. Hu taught at Highline ten years ago as an adjunct math instructor.
When he left teaching at Highline, he decided that eventually, he wanted to come back.
“My goal is to come back. And I want to come back to support you, the students at Highline, and to be able to accomplish your dreams and support your academic journey,” Dr. Hu said.