Q and A with Vice President of student affairs, Shannon Finning, and Vice President for inclusion and community engagement, Dr. Calvin Hill

Josh Hillman
Staff Writer

calvin hill
Photo courtesy of Marketing and Communications.

As their final semsters come to a close, I sat down with Calvin Hill, vice president for inclusion and community engagment, and Shannon Finning, vice president of student affairs, to talk with them about their Springfield College experiences.


Q: What brought you to Springfield College?



A: “I think for me it was an opportunity to come back to Mass. I was really looking at expanding my career. An opportunity presented itself at the University of Saint Thomas, and it was great transition, I felt, for my family at the time. My wife is a professor at Assumption College and she felt she would like to have me closer to home. It’s always a good sign that your spouse wants you back home. Then the Springfield College opportunity presented itself, so I applied and was lucky enough to get it. It’s right in line with where I want to be professionally, and it’s also back in the state where I have been for the last 16 years.”



A: “I was contacted about the vice president position by the search firm working with President Mary-Beth Cooper. I am from the eastern part of the state, so I knew a little bit about Springfield College, but not a lot. As I talked to the search firm and did my research I thought, ‘wow this feels like a place that really fits my values and how I work with students.’ The more I learned, the more I kind of fell in love, and just had a sense that this was where I was suppose to be.“


Q: What is one item on your desk that you brought from home?



A: “I am big into family, my children are my first priority. As you come in, you will see the pictures of the kids and my family; they are the group that grounds me, and keeps me going. When I come into work everyday the first thing I see when I open the door is my wife, my kids and my dog. That’s what has the most value for me because they are why I do what I do.”



A: “A picture of my son. My son had surgery when he was three weeks old. This was him when he came home from the hospital, and he looks like he is giving me a critical look like, ‘Mom what are you doing?” I don’t usually need a reminder of how the work that I do impacts the students, or would I want this decision made for my son, because you’re an extension of my family. I like his critical look, because when I’m struggling with a difficult decision, that’s a good gut check. It keeps me honest.”


Shannon Finning
Photo courtesy of Marketing and Communications.

Q: What is your favorite Cheney meal?



A: “I am from Texas originally, so chili is a huge staple for any Texan. My dad used to make Frito pie. They’re Fritos, and then you pour chili on top of it, and then a little cheese. Whenever I go into Cheney we’ve got turkey chili there, and there have always been Fritos. So if you ever see me in Cheney, if they have the chili, I will have chili, Fritos, cheese, and a salad on the side.”



A: “We come for brunch every Sunday because my son has a swim lesson. Probably my favorite thing is brunch with him, because he is learning things like how to use the waffle maker. Also I end up having great conversations with students about totally off the cuff things that I don’t always get to talk about in my office because they’re in their pajamas still and seeing me while they get breakfast. I really like getting waffles because you get to stand and talk for a little bit.”


Q: What stands out about Springfield College compared to other places you have worked?



A: “It’s the students. I have never worked in an organizational entity except for college and university campuses. So for me here, it’s the students. I think there’s a lot of passion around their clubs and organizations, academic disciplines, and an alumni base. From my perspective, I would say the students are what I have gravitated to and connected to. Their passion, their energy, their zest, in having a strong center and grounding.”



A: “You probably saw the email from Dr. Cooper on Saturday about how we lost a student. It’s a tragic time for everyone impacted by the loss of Annie. I have seen the community here come together over things that are celebratory, whether it’s celebrating Couch Delong’s win, family weekend, or NSO, which is amazing. I have been at places with a lot of school spirit and pride. So (coming here) felt like a continuation, but it had a little additional piece here. There seems to be an appreciation and a real attentiveness to others, which I appreciate. Watching people at a time of real sadness, questioning life, a bigger purpose, and coming together to care for each other, really reinforced me as to what a special place Springfield is.”


Q: What do you plan to change or improve during your career here?



A: “One of the things that I put forward is the creation of a strategic planning around issues of diversity and inclusion, and I presented a five-point priority plan to the campus community. We are going to see increased numbers of faculty staff and students of diverse backgrounds. Our climate is going to be much better from the standpoint of treating each other with dignity and respect across campus. We are going to see that the campus is more involved in the community and that safety issues are addressed so that students feel like the Springfield area is a place they can grow and hangout in. Those are areas that I’m hoping we can see some change in.”



A: “We launched a strategic planning process for the division of student affairs. How do we define, create, and further improve the optimal student experiences? A big part of that to me is engaged learning; the idea of internships, applied experiences, and job shadowing. That’s one of the things that you get here that’s a real differentiator. We have students that are part of that process, faculty and staff. That will chart our next five years in terms of what we are doing. Health safety and well-being are big for me too; so making sure we are tending to our students. Also educating people that those are shared responsibilities. With that, it’s important that we never lose sight of the student voice, and that’s imperative. That’s why I am here, in service to students, faculty and staff. I deeply care about this place and the people who make it what it is.”


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