Kent Willis guides students toward success as vice president of Student Affairs


Courtesy of Student Affairs

Kent Willis, vice president of the Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, speaks at a rally announcing Fresno State’s Bulldog Bound Program on May 10 at the Resnick Student Union.

By Jazmin Alvarado, Reporter

Kent Willis shares something in common with incoming freshmen and transfer students: He’s new to campus and is still navigating the ins and outs of Fresno State.
Willis began as vice president of the Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management on Jan. 3.

The Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management focuses on guiding students toward success in the pursuit of higher education. The office is located in Room 262 of the Joyal Administration Building.

He transferred from the University of Texas at Tyler where he worked as the associate dean of the graduate school and as an assistant vice president.

Willis told The Collegian he accepted the position at Fresno State because of the leadership staff Fresno State has to offer, along with their commitment to the students.

“The mission of the university – as well as the commitment of staff members, not only across the division, but across the campus – is one that is very student-centered. This was compelling to me and is one of the reasons I wanted the opportunity to take on this role,” Willis said.

Fresno State President Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval said he appointed Willis with confidence that he’d bring the leadership needed for enrollment management, according to Fresno State News.

Student Affairs is designed to equip students with the necessary expertise to achieve their future aspirations and career goals, according to Martin Alvarado, a staff member with the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships,

“Dr. Willis is a remarkable leader who has significantly improved Fresno State and the Student Affairs Office in various areas. He is attentive to the needs of the Fresno State community and students and makes efforts to be visible to them,” Alvarado said.

Student Affairs provides students with specialized help for each individual by directing students toward the programs and services on campus that will best support them.

“I want to make sure our services outside of the classroom are helping students be as successful as they possibly can be in their academic pursuits,” he said. “I also hope to be helping them engage on our campus and in the community in a way that really sets them apart from other people when they’re competing for a job after college.”

Student Affairs is developed to ensure students are able to grow throughout their college journey. The office allows for innovation and takes into account what every student on campus has to say.

Rebecca Perez, the Associated Students Inc. vice president for external affairs, said Student Affairs has always welcomed her and made sure she had a seat at the table.

She said Willis and his staff listened to any of her concerns and made her feel validated.

“Dr. Willis is talking to everyone. He’s gaining a perspective on what they like about campus, what students want to see more of and what the problems are. He is asking how he can help them have a better Fresno State experience,” Perez said.

Willis said the staff of this office are willing to go above and beyond to ensure that they meet the needs of each individual student.

Zach Ortiz, the ASI senator of athletics and recreation, said Student Affairs is a key component for students, especially for first-years and transfers.

“I have spent the semester with Dr. Willis, and all I can say is that he is an amazing man. He has always made time for me whenever I needed help on any projects. When I see him running around campus, he is always repping a smile and saying hi to everyone he comes across,” Ortiz said.

Josie Rangel, a staff member in the Student Health and Counseling Center, said Willis is enhancing the campus of Fresno State by assessing existing services and reimagining how these things can be modified to better serve students.

“Dr. Willis has been a wonderful addition to Fresno State administration and especially to Student Affairs. He will sit with students and staff alike to share a meal or a refreshment on campus, which is reflective of his accessibility and genuineness about being transparent and open to feedback,” Rangel said.

Willis said his favorite part about his role on campus is meeting the “phenomenal people and students of Fresno State who are eager to make an impact in the world.”

A piece of advice Willis offers to students is to build relationships with their peers and to take advantage of the services and opportunities to pursue a higher education.

“The main thing students should know about the Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management is that we work for you [students]. All of the services and programs we have to offer are for students,” he said.