Dr. Vincent E. Morton takes on title role as the Dean of Students
This fall, Dr. Vincent E. Morton was named Texas State University Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students. Morton assumed this role on September 1. It was previously held by Dr. Margarita Arellano, who retired after more than 11 years of service with the university.
Morton holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of North Texas, a master’s degree in interdisciplinary studies, and a Ph.D. in education from Texas State. He joined Texas State in 1991 as an Assistant Director of Recreation Sports. He moved to the Dean of Students’ Office in 1995 as Assistant Dean, and in 2005, became Associate Dean of Students and Student Ombudsman.
Q: Next year will mark your 30th anniversary here. What can you say about the kinds of change you have witnessed since joining Texas State University?
Morton: Actually, if you count my graduate assistantship in Campus Recreation (August 1989) I’m entering my 32nd year now. More important than the changes is that students still say Texas State has a small school feel. That’s really significant.
As far as the changes, the beautification of the campus is most visible, which was through Dr. Denise Trauth’s leadership. I could not have imagined enhancing the beauty of a campus, which was beautiful to begin with.
The other change is connecting with one of the guiding reasons of the name change, and that has been the marketability of Texas State and attracting new students and employees beyond Texas. We have a really diverse population at Texas State that I believe benefits the educational experience for our students as well as the lives of those who work here and call this area of Texas home.
Q: What is your personal vision for the office of the Dean of Students?
Morton: To meet students where they are! It’s one thing to want to develop and assist students during their tenure here, but as staff in the Dean of Students Office we want to give voice to and respect the educational goals of students from the student’s perspective. After all, it’s the student’s journey.
Additionally, we want to continue to serve as the primary clearinghouse of information for students, faculty, staff, and the public. Many people are not familiar with the structure of the university including what offices/divisions do. The Dean of Students Office is pretty common regarding institutions of higher learning and we desire to be a primary source of directing students, faculty, staff and the public to the resources, offices, departments, or people who can best serve their needs.
Q: Can you speak to some of the findings or highpoints from your 2015 doctoral dissertation – Black Males in Higher Education: Communities of Color?
Morton: Hmmmm, I’ll reflect on a lively conversation that occurred during my dissertation defense with many of those present. When one committee member asked, “So Lem (that’s what most people call me) what have you learned through this entire experience?”
My response was: “It’s simple, but it’s complex. It’s as simple as conversations need to happen (talking with African American males about their experiences growing up, which aided their ability to persevere through college) to understand the student’s journey. But it’s complex because once those conversations start happening and people actually listen, people will encounter experiences that they likely never conceived could motivate and propel these young men to persevere against some pretty big odds that are stacked against them. It’s simple, but it’s complex and it starts with listening!”
Look at where we are today in terms of social injustice, especially as it pertains to African American males and law enforcement. Colin Kaepernick started a movement but there was hardly anyone who listened to why he kneeled. It is sort of like “Meeting Students Where They Are” — be quiet and listen before you insert your own biases into a message coming from someone else. Meet them where they are, and not where you want them to be. Kaepernick’s message is starting to become a bit clearer, and more importantly, clearer to those who are not Black.
It’s unfortunate the deaths we’ve had to see on videos woke a lot of society up, but at least the listening has begun.
Q: This has been a very difficult and unusual year for Bobcats. What would you say to a student who may be questioning the value of a college experience in the shadow of Covid-19?
Morton: I really have a hard time walking on campus and seeing only four to eight freshman/transfers at a time when I’m walking from the LBJ Student Center to my car. I want to tell each of them, “This is not the typical freshman experience so just hold on.”
My hope is that we get through COVID-19 and that the friendships these students develop during this time end up as lifelong friendships that will endure them through any future trials and tribulations they encounter. With the exception of about five people, the strongest most enduring friendships I have today are the results of my college experience, so, HANG TOUGH, this too will pass!