There are challenges when anyone takes on a new job and Peter Paquette, the new Dean of Students at Coastal Carolina University, has already faced some big challenges in his first few months as Dean of Students.
Paquette provided his thoughts on the fall semester and how he used it to grow.
“It was chaotic,” said Paquette. “I think it was chaotic for everyone, if you ask me. We literally were in school and having normal days for about three weeks and then all of a sudden, we were three weeks away from classes. It was a rough one, for myself and for campus. I think we got to see some of the best of Coastal in regards to campus collaborations.”
Paquette, who formerly took over as Dean of Students in April 2018, said that he stayed in Atlanta for that first week that campus was closed before returning to Conway.
“Administrators got the same kind of message that students received in regards to evacuating,” said Paquette. “We were told that students [that were unable to evacuate themselves] were getting on a bus to Clemson and that we should get out too. Being a new homeowner, I just did what everyone else did. I boarded up my windows and left.”
Paquette said that he knew the potential was there for hurricanes to hit the area but he did not expect one to hit within his first two years at Coastal.
“The Myrtle Beach area historically is not known to get hit by hurricanes,” said Paquette. “I think we did well in preparing because we had lots of time to prepare. I have colleagues down at Florida State and a few weeks after Florence came through, they were getting hit and they only had two days to prepare.”
Paquette is not the first Dean of Students to experience hurricanes hitting campus and delaying classes. Travis Overton, Vice President for Executive Initiatives/Chief of Staff, has handled hurricanes in the past. Most recently, Hurricane Matthew, which left campus closed for over a week back in 2016.
Overton gave his assessment of Paquette and how well the new Dean of Students handled his first full semester in his role.
“I think he has done a great job,” said Overton, who was Dean of Students at Coastal Carolina from. “I think Dr. Paquette has worked to identify the areas that in which our campus can move to the next level. What he really has done is taken a minute to look at some of our processes and use his knowledge that he has gained from his work at other institutions to evaluate the processes we have in place here at Coastal Carolina. As supervisor, he has kept me updated on any tweaks he has made, and I think the tweaks and changes that he has made have been phenomenal.”
Overton also assessed how Paquette handled the challenge that Hurricane Florence posed in the fall semester.
“The Dean of Students largely plays a role in providing support for students,” said Overton. “And really, where he played a large role was in helping navigate funding for students for students with the benevolence funding.”
Coastal Carolina University is able to offer a number of opportunities for benevolence funding for students and their families experiencing hardships. In the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, the Dean of Students office received its largest request of funding from students since the fund was set up back in 2011.
The Dean of Students Office partners with Coastal Carolina University students, their families, faculty and staff to promote the holistic development of students focusing on student advocacy, crisis management and personal accountability. One of the biggest goals that dean of students is to serve the students at Coastal and be a guiding light to success.
Adrian Anderson, a former student at Coastal Carolina that graduated in December 2018, was on the committee to help select the new Dean of Students. He gave his overview of how Dean Paquette handled the 2018 Fall semester.
“When a new administrator comes in, they use the first year or so to see where they fit in and evaluate how things have been going so far, rather than changing things drastically,” said Anderson. “I know he made mention of how accessible the Dean of Students Office was to students and he did his best to get that out information there. That was one of the many things that he did successfully in the fall.”
On Tuesday, Oct. 30, the Dean of Students office hosted “Donuts with the Deans”. Paquette believed the event to be a success, despite the cold weather.
Looking forward, Paquette hopes that he can help contribute to the constant growth of Coastal Carolina.
“I want to continue to find ways to partner with student groups,” said Paquette. “I would love to come to student group meetings and sit in to get to know these organizations and students better.”