Dr. Jerry Price
On freshman move-in day several years ago when Rachel Tilghman experienced some trouble with her on-campus living arrangements at Chapman University, the new student received a visit from the school’s Vice Chancellor and Dean of Students Dr. Jerry Price.
“My housing situation had changed several times, so Dean Price came to apologize and make sure I had settled in,” says the May 2013 public relations and advertising graduate who now works as a marketing manager. “As a scared freshman thousands of miles from home, I welcomed Dean Price’s compassion and warmth.”
For Price, such thoughtful attention to the details and complexities of student life are all in a day’s work. As the school’s architect of on-campus life, he wears many hats, including overseeing the learning environment outside of the classroom and helping students on an individual basis.
“On a macro level, I strive to make the campus climate positive and productive, with as many learning opportunities as possible,” says Price, who has 19 years of experience as a dean of students. He is especially proud of the various programs initiated since he joined Chapman in 2008.
“The needs of students change as they progress through college, so we’ve developed a series of experiences at appropriate times during their academic careers,” he says. “Ninety percent of freshmen live on campus, so we built into the housing experience more intellectual and educational experiences, and whenever possible we connect students possessing similar academic interests.”
Statistics show that his tactics have proven successful. Over the past five years, the freshman retention rate rose from 85-87 percent to 91-93 percent.
Price also works on a micro level with individual student issues. “Students and their families want their individual circumstances to matter. If a student has trouble with a class, a conflict with another student or a personal problem that impedes academic progress, I assist in whatever way I can,” he says. “My goal is to help students find their paths and earn their degrees.”
Some students experience bumps along the way. “People claim that college isn’t the real world, but it can be stressful for young people,” says Price. “Students sometimes experience distressing circumstances, including depression and anxiety and family problems. I find it rewarding to help them earn their degrees despite the challenges. I am the dean of every student—from the one who earns a Fulbright to the one who uses poor judgment. Students are people in progress who deserve support and guidance, even when they make mistakes.”
Dr. Fran Dickson is Chair of Communication Studies at Chapman and often interacts with Price. “Jerry’s concern for students is genuine, and he is fair and creative in his solutions,” she says. “When a student succeeds in cleaning up a mess he or she made, Jerry doesn’t take credit for it, but I know he was instrumental in assisting the student. He is 100 percent on the side of the students, and the whole campus benefits.”
Price grew up in a Texas blue collar community but always excelled at academics and wanted to attend college. His parents didn’t seek higher education, but they passed on intellectual curiosity. “I watched public television science shows with my father and had acrostic puzzle competitions with my mother, who was extremely quick-witted and beat me every time,” he says.
Price studied at Carthage College in Wisconsin, starting out in math and science and switching to majoring in English. After graduation, he returned to Texas and worked as an assistant manager for McDonalds for two years after failing to find an advertising job in a depressed economy. He eventually got a job in advertising but didn’t enjoy it, so he and his wife, Dawn, entered graduate school in 1985 at Iowa’s Drake University. While studying to be an English professor, he took a part-time job assisting the school’s vice-president that morphed into a fulltime position that included advising students. He also earned his Ph.D. in Higher Education and assumed the position of Drake’s dean of students in 1994, holding that position until he left in 2003 to serve as dean of students at the University of Texas-Pan American. In 2008, he joined Chapman and has since touched the lives of many students.
“Dean Price’s energy is contagious,” says Tilghman, the student who met him on move-in day and worked with him during her junior and senior years when she was involved in student leadership. “Chapman is a unique school, full of energy, passion and possibilities, and Dean Price makes that spirit the fabric of his work. He is as involved as any Chapman student.”
At nearly 20,000-square-feet, the Student Union is the student’s “living room.” Located on the first floor of the Argyros Forum, the facility features three eateries, a great room, a stage for student performances, a student art gallery and two multi-purpose rooms. Evenings and weekends, the union becomes home to film screenings, dances and other student traditions.
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