On Sept. 2, Lisa Zapata, interim vice chancellor in the Division of Academic and Student Affairs (DASA) participated in an open forum and Q&A presentation as a part of the interview process for the vice chancellor and dean of DASA position.
Zapata was named the interim vice chancellor of DASA in August 2019, following the resignation of Mike Mullen, amid calls from College Republicans at NC State. Before being named interim, Zapata was the senior associate vice chancellor of DASA.
Zapata’s virtual interview process spans Sept. 2-3, and she is the first of three candidates to undergo the two-day process. The other two candidates for the position have not yet been announced but will be released two business days prior to their interviews, which will take place later this month, according to Louis Hunt, senior vice provost for enrollment management and services.
According to Hunt, the nomination committee received applicants from across the country in their search, which began in November 2019. Zapata is the only internal candidate of the three finalists for the position.
Hunt said the entire campus community can provide feedback on each candidate through the open forums, but the provost and chancellor will make the final decision on who is hired.
PackTV livestreamed the open forum, during which Zapata spoke about the topic “DASA, building on success.” She discussed her professional career, the role of DASA at NC State, DASA’s success and her plans for the future of DASA.
“I am excited to have the opportunity to talk with you about why I would like to become the person who provides the leadership and support for building on what we have created and developed over the last eight years,” Zapata said.
Background and Career
Zapata grew up a Wolfpack fan. Her father earned two degrees from NC State, and her parents lived in E.S. King Village when they first got married. Zapata grew up going to NC State football and basketball games. She said the University has always been an important part of her life.
Zapata received a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the UNC-Chapel Hill. She later received a Master of Science in counselor education and doctorate in philosophy for educational research and policy analysis, both from NC State. Zapata has worked at NC State since 1998, beginning in the Division of Student Affairs, which merged with the Division of Undergraduate Academic programs in 2017 to form DASA.
She became the interim vice chancellor of DASA last year.
“This year and this experience has made me realize that I want to be in this leadership role,” Zapata said. “This has been the most challenging year for sure, but serving our division alongside our cabinet, our faculty, our staff and our students has also been one of the most rewarding and meaningful experiences of my entire career.”
What is DASA?
According to Zapata, DASA plays a role in a student’s college experience from start to finish. Events through DASA, such as Wolfpack Welcome Week and New Student Orientation, connect students to their peers and to the NC State community. DASA also oversees University College, Student Development, Health and Wellness, University Housing, Leadership and Civic Engagement, Fraternity and Sorority Life and Student Involvement, among other departments on campus.
“Everything we do in every unit is focused on supporting students inside and outside of the classroom to help them reach their goal of graduating,” Zapata said.
Zapata also said this is why students receive a red tassel at their first-year convocation: to remind them of their goal throughout their time at NC State. The resources DASA offers are avenues for students to achieve these goals.
DASA, next steps and building on success
According to Zapata, the next vice chancellor of DASA should ensure the division provides innovative programs and services to support students. Some of the notable programs Zapata has implemented during her career at NC State include receiving a $2.6 million annual grant to support first generation and low-income students and adding recognition by the chancellor of ROTC students commissioned as officers to commencement ceremonies.
Zapata has also been involved with increasing university focus on mental health and wellness. The initiative included creating the director of wellness position, changing the name of “UREC ” to “Wellness and Recreation” and creating a wellness strategic plan to guide the University for the next four years.
“With the support of our students, our administration and our board of trustees, we have been extremely successful, but we can never hire enough clinicians,” Zapata said. “So we made a broader effort to put a bigger focus on wellness in the hopes of preventing people from getting to the point where they needed counseling.”
Diversity and inclusion is another area Zapata has been heavily involved with during her time at NC State. Zapata has partnered with Sheri Shwab, vice provost for the Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity (OIED), to improve the experience of Black and brown students on campus. In her interim position, Zapata has attended monthly meetings with the Coalition of Black Student Organizations to collaborate on the goal.
Under Zapata, DASA has also implemented a position for the director of equity and inclusion within the division to lead diversity and inclusion efforts.
Some of the ideas Zapata wants to collaborate with the DASA cabinet on and work toward include focusing on student mental health, the student experience, additional support for advising, sharing data between colleges, establishing better representation within the DASA cabinet and abolishing systematic racism.
First, she said abolishing systematic racism “sounds big and impossible,” but is also something that every university and every person should work toward, according to Zapata.
Zapata would work toward this goal by continuing the partnership between DASA and OIED, fill the division director of equity and inclusion position and increase the U.S. diversity general education requirement credit hours across the University.
Second, Zapata said student mental health progress is not done. In the vice chancellor position, she said she would continue to execute the wellness strategic plan and expand services for distance education students.
Distance education students currently do not pay fees for Student Health Services and do not have access to mental or student health services. However, COVID-19 adjustments have proven these services have the capacity to offer telehealth and can be made available to distance education students.
Third, Zapata would aim to continue leading the conversation on student experience by creating new ways to engage students who are not on campus. This initiative would also include planning for when students can return to campus post-pandemic.
Her other initiatives are establishing a deliberate connection between advising and career counseling and sharing student data with the dean of each college. For example, telling each dean how many of their students use DASA programs and activities.