For more than 15 years, Cameron Patterson ’10, M.S. '17 has been putting down roots at Longwood—first as a student, then within Student Affairs, and for the past five years as executive director of Robert Russa Moton Museum.
This June, he will transition to Interim Vice President for Student Affairs, taking the helm from Dr. Tim Pierson, who has led the office for 22 years and is taking on an emeritus role for the University.
We caught up with Cameron as he prepares to move to Lancaster Hall this summer on the importance of the Student Affairs office, changing pressures on students, and Taylor Swift.
Student Affairs is a collection of various offices and initiatives that help support the growth, development, and success of students.Cameron Patterson ’10, Interim Vice President for Student Affairs Tweet This
Your first few roles at Longwood were in Student Affairs. How did that shape your career?
I was fortunate that Dr. P asked me to return to Longwood after I graduated. I worked in multicultural affairs, and led that office through a period of transition before transitioning to the office of disability resources. Both of those offices had aspects of the work that really shaped how I understand the value of a strong Student Affairs office in our community.
In multicultural affairs, I had an opportunity to work with the Diversity Council and support our student groups while working with leadership to plan an evolution of the office. So it really was an opportunity to shape a vital area of student life and think long-term.
In disability resources (now the office of accessibility resources), I got a great perspective on how Academic Affairs and Student Affairs can work collaboratively. It was a good learning experience because while I was working in a student-focused office in terms of the services we offered, many of those services were specifically helping students on the academic side. It was a great thing to see how things can work together.
You are the director of the Moton Museum. How has that experience helped prepare you for your new role?
In a lot of ways, Moton Museum and the work we do here has a lot of ties to Student Affairs. First, we work with students all the time, both with individual classes and groups on campus, so I engage with the student body regularly.
In the museum and nonprofit world, directors have to wear a lot of hats, especially when you are focusing on developing a culture of engagement, which has been my priority at the museum. We very much value that we are a museum affiliated with an higher education institution, so it’s important that our students have learning opportunities while we continue our responsibilities to our local community, statewide, and nationally.
It’s really about building collaborations that are critical to success—how we engage with students and educators, how we engage as a community anchor, how we raise the profile and visibility of the museum. I think that culture of engagement translates well to Student Affairs—there are a multitude of opportunities across the division to think about ways we can help students engage.
And then finally, as director of the Moton Museum I sit on the President’s Cabinet, which means I’m involved in discussing important issues that affect not only today’s students, but generations of students into the future. That’s a role I take seriously, because in it I have a responsibility to shape this university for students far into the future.
What do you see as the main role of Student Affairs on campus?
Student Affairs is a collection of various offices and initiatives that help support the growth, development, and success of students. When a student comes to Longwood, they can anticipate a strong experience inside the classroom, but equally important is the experience we deliver outside the classroom that helps complement their education in powerful ways. I look at the entire campus as a learning environment that’s an extension of the classroom. I’m excited to work with the various departments of Student Affairs and the community to think about ways we can strengthen the co-curricular experience.
You know, it’s not always the things you talk about with someone, but the way you observe someone work that makes the most impact.Cameron Patterson ’10, Interim Vice President for Student Affairs Tweet This
You mentioned Dr. Tim Pierson, who has been at the helm of the Student Affairs office for more than two decades. How has his tenure impacted your career and life?
He’s been a great mentor and resource and guide. I was a highly engaged student when I arrived on campus, joining Lancer Productions and SGA before finally serving as SGA president my senior year. I met weekly with Dr. P then, and I took away from that how much emphasis he puts on seeking student input and involving students in decision-making processes. As a result of that—and I want to stress that is not the case at every university—students walk away with a number of strong and positive experiences that help complement the things they are learning in the classroom.
In recent years, I’ve worked alongside Dr. P at the executive level, and have seen from a different perspective the ways that Student Affairs fits into the puzzle. He’s seen the institution go through a number of different changes, but he’s always kept the goal of delivering a strong student experience central to his mission.
You know, it’s not always the things you talk about with someone, but the way you observe someone work that makes the most impact. I’ve benefitted from that at every level of my career. It’s really an honor to succeed him.
Have the needs of students changed since you were an undergraduate at Longwood?
There are absolutely a new set of pressures that are important to be mindful of. Some of those pressures might be ones we can handle inside Student Affairs but more and more we have to think collaboratively across campus.
For example, there are a lot of families considering whether a 4-year residential education is worth the cost. So it’s not only an academic question but a student experience question, and we have to think about the value that adds.
I think a lot about student health the mental health pressures that our students are experiencing. We don’t know yet the full effect of the pandemic on mental health, but we need to continue to find ways to meet student needs on that front.
I think a lot about the work that colleagues have led in collaboration to meet first-generation students’ needs. It’s important that we elevate that work and support it.
We already have many special and unique Longwood traditions, but they are made stronger because our students are in the driver’s seat of helping to lead many of these efforts across campus.Cameron Patterson ’10, Interim Vice President for Student Affairs Tweet This
Longwood has a strong tradition of student governance that is supported by Student Affairs. What was your experience of SGA as a student and why does it matter in 2022?
It’s a really awesome thing that the Vice President for Student Affairs serves as an advisor to student government—you don’t see that at every institution. It makes us unique that our student leaders have direct access to senior-level leadership, and that’s only been strengthened recently with the Dean of Student Engagement joining the advising team. Student leaders take a lot of pride in being advocates for their peers, making sure that their issues are brought to those who need to hear them. I’m hopeful to provide that same type of support to student government.
What’s your favorite Longwood tradition, after more than a decade spent at the university?
The one that’s closest to my heart is Spring Weekend, because I look back with fondness on the great experiences I had helping plan and put it together. I remember being in the Amelia Room in Lankford hashing out which bands we were going to bring to campus. I hate to say that I advocated against Taylor Swift in 2007, but I’m glad I didn’t win that fight! We already have many special and unique Longwood traditions, but they are made stronger because our students are in the driver’s seat of helping to lead many of these efforts across campus.
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