New vice president affirms University's student-centeredness

October 16, 2008

Penn State President Graham Spanier, who has often articulated his student-centered vision for the University, has found a consummate student advocate in Damon Sims, the new Vice President for Student Affairs.

Sims assumed his new post on August 1 after serving in various administrative and teaching roles at Indiana University. He also holds associate professor titles in the Penn State College of Education and its College of Law.

Indiana has played a central role in Sims' life: he holds a bachelor's degree in political science and history, as well as a law degree, from IU, and held numerous administrative positions at the institution, serving most recently as associate vice provost for student affairs (2007-08), associate vice president for student affairs (2006-07), and associate dean of students (2000-06). He also taught in Indiana's schools of law and education.

The lure of Penn State and its commitment to students, however, was enough to draw Sims away from the place to which he had committed 25 years of his professional life.

"I have deep, abiding affection for Indiana University, and Bloomington is a wonderful place to live and to raise a family," he explained. "What drew me here was not personal, but professional -- the clear commitment toward student-centeredness, the energy and quality of the senior-most leadership, the sense that this is an institution where my contributions would be welcomed, the extraordinary staff in Student Affairs and an outstanding student population, both at University Park and on the Commonwealth campuses."

Sims said President Spanier's dedication to the student population was an important factor in attracting him to Penn State.

"At Penn State, the Vice President for Student Affairs at Penn State is a member of the President's Council, which is composed of the senior leadership in the institution," he noted. "That inclusion is significant to me because at Indiana University the chief Student Affairs officer is not part of the President's Cabinet.

"Similarly, Penn State, unlike Indiana, has widely expressed a deep commitment to 'student-centeredness.' Some could argue that the ambition to become the most student-centered research university has yet to be fully realized, but no one should argue with the ambition itself. I find President Spanier's intentions in this regard to be among the most significant differences between Penn State and most other major research universities. It is a difference that enables Student Affairs to find a place in nearly every important discussion within Penn State, and that is a difference that matters greatly."

Previously, Sims was active in efforts to encourage greater civic engagement and understanding among students; has served as an advocate on behalf of children and victims of abuse. He has held executive positions in historical societies, leadership development organizations and charitable groups, and has served on various local, regional and state boards and commissions.

It's not surprising, then, that he spent his first three months at his new job meeting and establishing relationships with the wide-ranging groups of individuals he will be serving.

"I've been extremely happy with the welcome I've received from students, faculty, staff, parents, alumni, donors, State College Borough leaders and more," he said. "It's been a great beginning."

Meanwhile, Sims already has envisioned what his future plans will include as Vice President for Student Affairs.

"I want to reinvigorate the Student Affairs staff, to get it working more collaboratively," he said. "I want to ensure that Student Affairs itself is student-centered and encourage true student-centeredness across the University, ensuring that students are meaningfully engaged in institutional decision-making, that they reflect on the meaning and obligations of citizenship, and that they are given the resources and support necessary to succeed as students at Penn State."

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated April 18, 2017