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UWF Diversity Officer Takes On New Positions

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A popular administrator at the University of West Florida is adding a new title to her business card.  Dr. Kim LeDuff is now the Vice President of Academic Engagement and Student Affairs at the University of West Florida.

The Department of Academic Engagement at UWF was founded about two  years ago and Dr. LeDuff was its founding vice president.

"We found that by having that division we were bringing together a lot of the important units that support students and also encourage high impact learning. (That means) we are creating opportunities for students to get real world experience, whether that's through study abroad, internship opportunities, even having real world experience in the classroom."

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Listen to Bob Barrett's full conversation with Dr. Kim LeDuff.

LeDuff had been working with the division of academic engagement for two years when the vice president for enrollment and student affairs left the school. She took on those responsibilities and feels the two departments are a nice match.

"Because, again, student affairs units are involved with conduct, with the student experience on campus whether that's through housing of student involvement. And so a lot of those units worked very closely with my units, such as advising and some of the programs that we have for special populations. So it's been a really nice union."

Dr. LeDuff has been a student advocate since she arrived at UWF in 2013 to work on student diversity issues.

"Initially I came in as associate vice provost for equity and diversity and international affairs," she said. "Quite honestly it's the work I did there that really shaped the work that I've done (since then) with some of the support units. When you think about those units, a lot of the work that we do is acclimating students to a new environment. So in our case it's a university environment, but also helping them feel like part of the community. By doing that you're educating them, you're helping them to develop soft skills, you're helping them to create awareness about what resources are available to them on campus to support them, and you're helping them just connect with one another."

The student body at the University of West Florida is largely made up of commuter students who do not live on campus. Dr. LeDuff says this can pose a challenge in building a campus community.

"We have to be creative. Quite honestly even with the traditional student population, these are Generation Z students, and they are looking for something very different than students were looking for when I was going to college, and even I would say five or 10 years ago. In terms of the level on involvement, this is a generation that grew up with cell phones and technology. They don't really like to engage face to face all the time, so we have to be very creative in terms of how we engage them on campus."

LeDuff says that since the commuter students are not based on campus, they also works a bit harder to get those students to take advantage of the resources available to them on campus. And building a community of campus sometimes means dealing with unusual situations.

A few weeks ago Dr. LeDuff got a call from the campus recreation department.

"Students can kayak on the water here on campus and there was concern because there was an alligator near the dock. They wanted to know what we should do about the alligator and I thought 'never in a million years did I think alligators came with student affairs'. But we did work it out. I talked with facilities and our alligator is a little too small to remove right now, but we had to put up signage. So again, when you think about community this is kind of like a small city when it comes to making sure that the students have what they need. You'll be amazed sometimes at the things that will come up!"