With the retirement of Paul Oliaro as vice president of student affairs at Fresno State, Dr. Carolyn Coon will take over as interim on Dec. 15 until a replacement is found.
Coon, the dean of students, said it’s a position she does not plan to make permanent, but does takes the job of safeguarding the post seriously.
Coon received her Ph.D. in college student personnel services from Kansas State University and has worked in the student affairs profession since 1986. Prior to coming to Fresno State in 2002, she served in assistant dean and dean positions at several liberal arts colleges in Kansas.
Her commitment to helping students is what made her the obvious choice, said Fresno State President Joseph Castro.
“She is such a talented student affairs professional,” Castro said. “In addition to that, she has very strong relationships across the campus. She’s great for the student affairs team. They like her, they trust her and they respect her. Just as much outside student affairs, she’s liked, trusted and respected. She has integrity and credibility.”
Castro said it’s important for an interim to ensure stability and continue initiatives in place under Oliaro. At the same time, Castro said he expects Coon to think about the future needs of the student affairs division.
Coon said helping students and working with multiple divisions on a college campus are why she wants to stay in her position as dean of students.
“I can’t imagine not being on a college campus,” Coon said. “You walk around and get to see students and talk with folks about developmental things or just what’s going on with them. Even the students that have problems, you sit down and talk to them.
“Some times the greatest education for me is just to walk around the campus. This is what it’s all about. It’s not about the budget or maybe I couldn’t find a parking spot.”
After working with Oliaro for 11 years, Coon said it will take time to adjust to a new person.
“When Dr. Oliaro leaves, it’s going to be very hard for me,” Coon said. “That will be the hard part—the trust. Knowing that when he makes a decision, whether we’re in agreement or disagreement, that you know his decisions are made with the best intent.
“I am not quite ready yet to let him go. With any change there will be some checking each other out, getting to know each other. The reminder for me is whoever the next person is, is not Paul Oliaro. I suspect there will be some challenges as there is with any transition.”
While Coon may not take over Oliaro’s position, she knows what she would like to see from his successor. Whoever it is, she said, needs to understand the campus and keep the division of student affairs connected to the rest of the university.
“Someone who better have a passion for students, because, even though this place is big, it still strikes me how much we focus on the individual students,” Coon said.