Because of a $10.2 million donation from Charlie and Debbie Morrison promoting student wellness, Kansas State created a new position called the Morrison Family associate vice president for student well-being. After a national search, the committee selected Kathleen Hatch for the inaugural position.
Thomas Lane, vice president for student life and dean of students, said the creation of the position stemmed from student feedback received both during the COVID-19 pandemic and before. He also said the position fits into the Division of Student Life’s objectives.
“An important part of our student life strategic plan is championing holistic student well-being,” Lane said. “So, this position fits really well into that strategic goal we have as a division.”
Hatch said the position combined her interests in student well-being with her experiences and background. She served as a leader of student well-being at Washington State University for 25 years and, most recently, as the executive director of recreational sports at The Ohio State University.
“I had a chance in this last seven to 10 years to really be a part of some important conversations in higher [education] in multiple associations’ work,” Hatch said. “That has always been pulling me into this very holistic approach to look at our preventative and restorative and protective factors of culture and environment, and human behavior in ways support the clinical, urgent need.”
Josh Diazdeleon, junior in elementary education, is the Student Governing Association basic needs director and served on the search committee as a student representative. He said the committee had to review many applicants who were interested in the position.
“A lot of folks looked at K-State, and a lot of folks were interested in who we are and what we are,” Diazdeleon said. “We’ve kind of established ourselves as a pretty prestigious institution in that sense, and a lot of people wanted to join our family.”
Diazdeleon also said the committee wanted to ensure the new hire for the position would build relationships with students.
“I think that’s just something that we’ve kind of established as a university, that we really appreciate folks who do commit themselves to students,” Diazdeleon said. “I feel like we found the right choice for that as well.”
Hatch said she appreciates that K-State already established its support for student well-being before she arrived on campus.
“At certain times in my career, I’ve been in conversations where you spend all your energy just trying to justify that we should talk about well-being,” Hatch said. “So, the fact that that one’s done and now it’s, ‘OK, let’s move into the work and let’s get busy in the work together,’ is just fantastic.”
She said that influences the way she approaches her new position.
“For me, it’s not coming in and charting a brand-new course,” Hatch said. “It’s building on the foundation that’s been new here, and with that, putting, hopefully, some air into some new opportunities and some emerging best practices and helping to connect some of the dots.”
Lane, who also served on the search committee, said Hatch’s primary objective is to oversee areas on campus connected to student well-being, such as Lafene Health Center, recreational services, Powercat Financial and Counseling Services. He said she would also build upon existing programs at K-State and connect students with programs outside of the university.
“We’re also wanting to look at how do we scale up our existing student well-being programs,” Lane said. “How do we make sure we’re touching as many students as we can with well-being information, well-being opportunities for students to strengthen their sense of well-being? So, that’s another goal that we have.”
Hatch said those goals fit in with what she hopes to teach students about well-being.
“If there’s anything to be learned from this pandemic, it is the interdependence of our health, and that’s globally, right?” Hatch said. “That doesn’t end on the border of campus. It doesn’t end in Manhattan or in this great state. We’re all a part of this human experience.”
Additionally, Hatch said she hopes to help students understand that, while there are some things they cannot control with well-being, it is not as difficult to achieve as some might think.
“We think about living a life of health and well-being sounds pretty complicated, or it takes a lot of time,” Hatch said. “I think there are micro-steps every day that can become patterns and almost then instinctive that I’m going to do these things.”
In her first several weeks in Manhattan, Hatch has worked hard in her new position, Diazdeleon said.
“I think Kathleen’s first week on the job, we were already sitting down as student government and meeting with her and discussing kind of our plans and whatnot,” Diazdeleon said. “So, she wasn’t even entirely moved into Manhattan yet, and she was already meeting with student leaders from student groups.”
Hatch has also ventured out into the community to meet new people.
“I’ve already been out on my bike a couple of times and just trying to find my way to connect in this community,” Hatch said. “No matter who I’ve come across, I’ve just kind of sensed this real warmth and care of one another, right? Like, it’s really impressive.”
This is also not the first time Hatch has been to K-State. When Hatch worked at Washington State, she came to K-State with a group of students to tour the K-State’s Student Union for a student union renovation at WSU.
“The beauty of this campus had certainly stayed with me, and that was true when I interviewed in August, like, I felt that sense of that this is just something special,” Hatch said.
In all, Diazdeleon said Hatch is a great asset to the K-State community.
“I think we brought on a great hire,” Diazdeleon said. “I definitely think Kathleen Hatch is the type of person you could send an email and she’d meet with any student any time. She’s here for K-State.”
Lane said Hatch had adopted the K-State way.
“We’re really excited about Kathleen being with us … she’s hit the ground running,” Lane said. “I think we have drowned her in purple, and that’s been great. I think she’s accepted that purple, and I think she’s going to be a great addition to our staff.
More information is on the Division of Student Life’s website.