By PAOLA CRESPO
Dean of Students Stephanie Russell Krebs serves as the chief officer of student affairs at the University of Tampa.
Krebs moved to Tampa from her home town of Fort Wayne, Ind. and started working at UT in 1998 as coordinator of Student Activities. At that time, UT only had about 2,200 students. Student Activities was located in the Riverside Building and the Office of Student Leadership and Engagement (OSLE) did not exist.
Krebs relocated to the Vaughn Center once it was built and became the director of Student Activities and the union. A couple of years later she became the assistant dean of students, then the associate dean of students and was finally promoted to the dean of students on June 1, 2011.
To describe her job, Krebs said, “Think: When students aren’t in class, what are they doing? That’s what my office is in charge of.”
As the dean of students, Krebs oversees many offices including: OSLE, Residence Life, Career Services, Office of Student Conduct, Orientation and Campus Recreation. The dean’s office also oversees the Dickey Health and Wellness Center, including the second floor where student groups that are wellness-related are located. Krebs also advises the UT Kappa Alpha Theta sorority.
The dean supervises the directors of those different departments with help from her three Associate Deans: Tim Harding, in charge of Career Development and Engagement; Krystal Schofield, who oversees Residence Life, Conduct and Orientation; and Gina Firth, who deals with all things wellness and Campus Recreation.
“I make sure she has all of the relevant information necessary on the three functional areas I oversee,” said Schofield. “I have worked with Stephanie in other capacities for the past 13 years. I truly enjoy working with her. She is a truly genuine person who has a big heart.”
The dean’s typical day begins at 7:45 a.m. and consists of many emails, phone calls and meetings. These meetings are not only with the school’s president or other established school officials. Krebs has breakfast every Friday in the cafeteria from 9 – 10 a.m. with Matthew Rutkovitz, the Student Government president and any students who would like to join.
“[The dean] has been nothing but a great role model and an asset to this community,” Rutkovitz said. “She is so charismatic and always listens to what I and other students have to say. She has helped me 100 percent both academically and personally. Whenever I need her, I know I can give her a call and she will give me great advice.”
Krebs explained her goal as dean. “I think there is a perception that you only meet the dean when you’re in trouble and that’s not the perception that I want the dean of students’ role to have,” the dean said. “I’m always trying to get to know students better because I think the role of the Dean of Students is to be an advocate for students. I need to know what student organizations are doing and what the hot topics are so that I can best relay that to other areas of campus, whether it is to Dr. Vaughn or senior staff.”
Upon moving into her new office in Plant Hall, Krebs decided to do some renovating. She had two floor-to-ceiling decorative doors redone to allow them to slide open and reveal the main staircase of Plant Hall. She demonstrated this with a laugh saying, “Now I can have open office hours. Sometimes I think people are afraid to just pop in to say ‘hey’ because they feel like there’s a gatekeeper that’s watching (referring to her assistant Glenda Sams.) Or they think you have to have an appointment to see me. So I try with this door, especially on Friday afternoons, to allow people to come in when they like.”
She said interaction with students is the best part of her job and is the most fun. However, there are other parts that are difficult. The dean deals with any student-related crisis or emergency such as a student being injured or passing away, or delivering news to a student about a death in their family. She also receives many calls from parents asking about how their children are doing both personally and academically. As dean, Krebs is on call 24/7. She also uses social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, to communicate with students. “So even if I’m not at all of the school’s events, students can see that I’m supportive, that I’m aware and can reach out to them,” she explained.
A fun fact not many people know about Krebs is that she was a finalist in auditions for the show “Survivor Africa,” the second season. She auditioned during her second year working at UT and her audition tape consisted mostly of UT students. “I love anything physical,” she said. “I’m a marathon runner. I just like those types of physical challenges and I’m competitive. ‘Survivor’ had just started its very first season…at the time it was something really new and at that stage in my life I wasn’t married, I didn’t have kids, I didn’t have a boyfriend or attachments, so it was the right time that I could just do it.” She laughed saying, “Now I have a husband, a daughter and I’m pregnant. I can’t just go to Africa!”
As an undergraduate at Butler University, Krebs was the president of her programming board and the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority. She went on to get her master’s degree in College-Student Personnel at Western Illinois University and was the house mother for the Delta Zeta sorority for two years. She is currently working on her Ph.D. in Education Leadership at Colorado State University by taking mostly online classes and flying to Colorado a couple times a year.
In college, Krebs discovered that she wanted a career working with students. “I found that I really liked what I was doing outside the classroom more than what I was doing inside the classroom,” she said. “I had some really good mentors and advisors and I thought, how fun would it be to have their job? I wanted to be dean because I like thinking ‘big picture’ and leading organizational change. I thought there was great opportunity because the scope of the position is so wide to really help students and that’s what I like to do.”
Asked why she chose to work at UT, Krebs said, “I love the diversity of our campus and our students. Being a private, small institution, I feel like you form better relationships with students. Students aren’t a number. I can’t imagine being anywhere else.”