New VP focused on remaining student-centered

Khalilah Doss remembers a different campus when she came to USI as an undergraduate.

Doss, who competed on the track and field team at McKendree University, noticed a large discrepancy in the number of buildings and people on campus when she came for an interview for the Vice President of Student Affairs position.

“Things look brighter,” she said. “I’m not sure how to define that and maybe it’s because we were traveling during the evenings and during the winter months.”

President Ron Rochon appointed Doss as the next Vice President of Student Affairs following the retirement of Marcia Kiessling in the spring.

Doss came to the university from McPherson College, where she served as VP of student affairs, Title IX coordinator, dean of students and chief diversity officer.

She said she chose USI because of growth and a clear vision. 

“I came here and met some amazing students and some amazing staff and faculty and it solidified for me that this is where I wanted to be,” she said.

Doss received her bachelor’s degree in economics, finance and marketing from McKendree, a master’s degree in public administration from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and a doctoral degree in education administration and higher education from Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

She is a member of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators and has spoken multiple times at their conferences on diversity issues in the workplace. Her research on the topic of diversity includes the experience of African American student-athletes which has been published in the Diversity in Higher Education and Education Review. 

At every campus she visits, Doss makes it a priority to say “hi” to everyone she sees. She said this is one of the first places where everyone has responded to her.

“We are all focused on so many things and students come to us with so many issues and are going through so many things that are not seen sometimes,” she said. “A friendly smile and a ‘hey’ can go a long way sometimes.”

Doss plans to enhance programming while also working through student recruitment and retention in her department. She said the best thing for her to do right now is to listen to students. 

Another issue she will continue to work on is resources for the Counseling Center.  The university hired a new counselor over the summer and they are in the process of hiring a part-time counselor.

Doss has made the intent to be wherever students are at, though she admits she cannot attend everything. She was able to meet with resident assistants and AMIGOS over the summer before students arrived for the fall semester. 

“Everything that I do is centered on the student experience,” she said. “We’ve coined this tagline in student affairs that the USI experience starts with us. Students give me energy and students are central to everything that we do.”

The most important responsibility for Doss is making sure students are safe.

“What keeps me up at night is wondering if everyone is safe,” she said. “When parents entrust us with their students, that’s one of the things we want to make sure that we are doing.”