Pizza with the President offers up slices of students’ experiences
The main room of the Maxine A. Smith Center was filled to capacity with students ready to share a slice of pizza and conversation with President Dr. Tracy D. Hall at Pizza with the President Sept. 24.
Pizza with the President is a Q & A between Dr. Hall and students held each fall and spring semester at a select campus location. The event is live-streamed to other campus locations to give all students an opportunity to voice their concerns. This year’s pizza powwow was simultaneously broadcast to the Macon Cove and Union Avenue campuses and to the Whitehaven Center.
Dr. Hall said the event is one she looks forward to each semester. “Hearing your voices is one of the most important ways the College can respond to your needs,” she said. “This is an opportunity for you all to give us your feedback and suggestions. You do have a voice at Southwest. When I feel the energy and vitality in this room – when you share your hopes and dreams with me – I see how deeply committed you are to completing your education. We will follow through on your comments.”
The theme for this semester’s event was “Healthy Engagement.” Senior leadership gave an overview of their departments or divisions emphasizing how to have healthy interactions with faculty and staff. Police Services and Public Safety Director L. Angela Webb said she wants students to have a positive encounter with campus police. “If you encounter the police, wave to us,” Webb said. “Speak to us. We’ll do the same because we are here to protect you and be a resource for you.”
Associate Dean of Professional Development Dr. Jennifer Townes outlined the responsibilities of faculty and students, from arriving to class on time to following a syllabus. “We, as faculty, understand you may have issues that arise during the term,” Dr. Townes said. “In our professional capacity, we will work with you in a forthright and compassionate way. But you are also responsible for advocating for yourself in a professional manner.”
After the presentations, students asked Dr. Hall a wide range of questions that included how to hasten financial aid returns and if the College could provide better food options on campus. “Can we get some more nutritious food?” one student asked. Dr. Hall mentioned the college is working on providing healthier menu options in vending machines and cafeterias. “I appreciate that kind of feedback,” Hall said. “This type of forum has allowed us to improve on a variety of student services because of your candid suggestions, so maybe next time, instead of Pizza with the President, we can make it Pears with the President,” she quipped.
Student Teresa Lindsey requested the College implement a more seamless admissions and financial aid process and asked the staff to show a little more empathy to students. “It can be intimidating as a new student to find your way around – many times in my encounter with staff, I felt no one really cared,” Lindsey said.
Dr. Hall was moved by Lindsey’s comments. “I saw in your face as you spoke how you needed us to just help you help yourself. One of the basic rights of all students is the expectation that you will be greeted and treated humanely. We do strive for perfection and while we may not be there yet, we are continually working on it.”
Dr. Hall concluded by telling the students that their comments and questions were helpful toward improving the overall student experience at Southwest. “I truly enjoy interacting with you all,” she said. “This has been a wonderful turnout and I am energized by your presence.”