New faces in familiar places

Key positions see new administrative appointments at the Hilltop

This past summer, USF parted ways with former administrators and made new appointments in three key areas: Strategic Enrollment Management (SEM), the Office of Diversity Engagement, and Community Outreach (DECO), and the School of Nursing and Health Professions (SONHP).

April Crabtree, who was previously hired in 2015 as the Director of Undergraduate Admission and Recruitment, took on the role of interim vice provost for Strategic Enrollment Management, succeeding Michael Beseda, who returned to his alma mater, Saint Mary’s College of California. 

Crabtree leads essential divisions for USF’s enrollment process and financial resources. “My role is to oversee and help facilitate decisions to make sure we are meeting service expectations for students,” she said.

Under Beseda’s tenure, USF consistently received high rankings in student diversity and record admissions for this fall semester, but the University also faced enrollment challenges given the COVID-19 pandemic. Crabtree’s plan for this academic year is to continue where Beseda left off. “Particularly in the last three years, the circumstances that we’re trying to work in have changed,” she said.  

One of Crabtree’s key responsibilities will be to maintain and increase enrollment of certain student demographics. “We are super proud that all the work we’ve done over these years has moved USF to sharing the title of most diverse institution in the country,” she said. “It was important for me in this role that first-generation college students are still a priority, and Pell Grant students, since those are personal to me.” 

Crabtree is also concentrating on increasing international and transfer student demographics. “A major interest is regrowing our international student population, but that has been made very difficult during the pandemic,” she said. “Transfer students are also super important to USF, but we also know that enrollment is down at community colleges which has a direct effect on us.” The pandemic has posed challenges for the University’s enrollment, but Crabtree ensured that projects are underway to accelerate the process.  

As an interim vice provost, Crabtree will hold her position for one year. However, she said, “This role would be something that I would probably apply for permanently.” 

Newly named senior vice provost for Equity, Inclusion, and Faculty Excellence, Pamela Balls Organista, will now oversee the Office of Diversity Engagement, and Community Outreach (DECO). “I started here many years ago in the psychology department and I taught in the ethnic diversities program,” said Balls Organista. “Having been a faculty member, I am particularly interested in supporting faculty so that they are able to provide good service.”

Balls Organista said her responsibility is “overseeing and coordinating the intersections between diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as holistic faculty development.”

She said this “is a newly envisioned position… there have been people who held different parts of what I am holding now, but what I bring to the role is my passion and values. The mission of this university brought me here.”

Prior to teaching at USF, Balls Organista worked in internal medicine at the University of California, San Francisco and said she “spent a lot of time studying race, ethnicity, and culture, as well as looking at health issues in underserved populations.” She wants to incorporate her background into the work of her new role, working closely with the McCarthy Center. 

In addition to her diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work, USF’s Institute for Nonviolence and Social Justice will now be under Balls Organista’s office. She also will handle academic planning at Star Route Farms, a property and brand purchased by USF in 2017 for $10.4 million. “What’s so special about USF is that so much happens on campus, but so much learning can happen outside of the classroom,” she said. “Star Route Farms has a lot of potential for student and staff learning.”

Academic planning in the SONHP will also see new leadership as Dr. Patricia Pearce was appointed interim dean of the program. Pearce, who was a nurse for 40 years, was previously the director of the School of Nursing at Loyola University New Orleans and the interim dean of Loyola’s College of Nursing and Health. 

Pearce described her new role as “overseeing faculty and collaborating with students and administration on a regular basis.” Pearce is replacing Margaret Baker, who held the position since 2016 and is now retiring. “We are both very much servant leaders, so she and I have very similar ways of thinking about a deanship,” she said.

In her first year of the position, Pearce hopes to “keep things stable while gearing up to help recruitment of students and staff.” She also anticipates challenges that may arise from the pandemic. “The challenges are always in resources; could be time, money, human resources, space resources,” she said. “As we put on new initiatives we have to tap into new resources and stay close with our collaborators.” While part of her role will be to help find a permanent replacement, Pearce says she would consider staying longer if the search is unsuccessful. 

More than anything, Pearce is excited about returning to campus. “I have really missed this energy,” she said. “I went to a meeting last week with nursing students who are getting their white coats, and I thought, ‘Wow, this energy could just change the earth.’”

Even as USF has adapted to a modified return, the University still faces various challenges.  Looking ahead, Balls Organista offered a guideline for the administration. “Our success will be how well we are able to share knowledge with each other,” she said. “To really affect change it has to be a collective effort. That’s how we move through crises.” 

Zoe Binder is a junior English and environmental studies double major, deputy news editor, and a general assignment reporter at the Foghorn. She can be reached at zebinder@dons.usfca.edu.

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