Thursday April 27, 2006

Champion for Students

Bill Schuerman, UD's unflappable vice president of student development and dean of students, will step down in June 2007 after more than two decades in the post.

Bill Schuerman, a champion of students and the University of Dayton's distinctive front-porch residential environment, will step down as vice president for student development and dean of students in June 2007 after 22 years in the post. He will remain a faculty member and teach courses in history and education.

The University of Dayton will launch a national search to fill the position. Schuerman, 59, has overseen the largest expansion of UD's residential environment in its history, including tripling of the number of UD-owned houses or duplexes in the student neighborhood and the construction of Marianist Hall, Lawnview Apartments and the Virginia W. Kettering Residence Hall. In addition, under Schuerman UD opened a $25.3 million fitness and recreation complex called RecPlex in January and will begin the renovation of its older residence halls this summer. In his role, Schuerman supervises a staff of more than 400 employees in such areas as residence education, residential services, dining services, Kennedy Union, campus recreation, public safety, parking services, student involvement and leadership, community responsibility and civility, educational and special programs, alcohol and drug abuse prevention, counseling center, health center and the office of diverse student populations.

Schuerman formerly served as the assistant vice president and associate dean of students at Georgetown University, where he started his career as a residence hall director. In all, his career in student development will span 36 years.

"Bill's contributions to the University of Dayton have been enormous. From being a strong advocate for students to helping UD build and sustain an innovative learning and living environment, he's been an excellent leader," said Daniel J. Curran, president. "During my first four years as president, he has been a great counsel to me."

Students appreciate his accessibility and responsiveness. "I don't think there's any doubt he has the interest of students at heart," said Drew Navolio, president of the Student Government Association. "He comes out to many student events, such as Relay for Life. He's a unique figure in how much of a role he plays with students. Students will e-mail him directly, and he'll respond directly."

For the past 20 years, Schuerman has taught a course in Western civilization, which has allowed him a view of students both in and outside the classroom. "As our culture has changed, students have changed, but in so many ways they're still the same," he observed. "They still struggle with issues of identity and autonomy and coming to a sense of who they will become."

Schuerman has honed a reputation as an unflappable, take-charge administrator - evidenced by his push to create a spring break to eliminate St. Patrick's Day rowdiness and to adopt stronger disciplinary consequences for alcohol abuse violations. An advocate for students, he lobbied for the construction of new houses in the student neighborhood and a showcase recreation center that's become one of the most popular facilities on campus. Others on campus and the community know him as the founder and self-described "senior member" of the Back Porch Jam, an eclectic band of faculty and staff who play American roots music. Schuerman sings folk music and plays the guitar, kazoo and train whistle. He shamelessly promotes the band's upcoming appearances in witty e-mails to friends and fans.

"I will remain the senior member," he quipped.

Schuerman will miss working with the student development staff, whom he calls "unsung heroes" for their day-to-day work with students, but is ready to spend more time in the classroom. I've always been one of those fortunate people who woke up every morning and looked forward to going to work. It's been a real blessing to have done this kind of work for 36 years," he said, "but there's a time for everything to come to an end, and it's time for me to transition to the next phase of life."

A Cincinnati native, Schuerman has not regretted leaving Georgetown in 1985 to take a leadership role at UD.

"I knew after being here six months that, next to marrying Ann, it was the best decision I've ever made," he said. "After being here a year, I knew I could stay forever. The Marianists are a special group of religious men and women with a philosophy of education that is so compatible with the work we do in student development. It's a perfect fit."

Contact Bill Schuerman at (937) 229-3311.