The complex organizational structure of colleges and universities can be daunting. The large team working behind the scenes of Occidental College is composed of an extensive list of faculty committees, the Board of Trustees and the College Leadership Team. Because the work of some faculty and staff is more internal-facing, many feel left in the dark about how the cogs of the institution turn. As investors in Occidental, the entire community benefits from understanding the college’s administrative structure and how to navigate it to their advantage.
The Occidental Weekly offers a deeper look into the organization, collaboration and personalities of Occidental’s administration. Here we provide a roadmap of Occidental’s administrative staff as well as a snapshot of Faculty Council. The Weekly collected responses from administrators about their roles in hopes of elucidating their work and encouraging community members to take advantage of the most efficient channels of communication. Increasing transparency of the college’s organization will ideally help us all identify the appropriate leaders and policymakers specifically dedicated to our areas of concern.
Senior Administrative Leadership Team*
Amos Himmelstein – Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
I arrived at Occidental in the fall of 2009 as associate vice president for institutional planning and led the college’s integrated planning process, resulting in Occidental’s current strategic plan. In spring 2011, I was appointed vice president for finance and planning to oversee the Business Office, Budget and Planning and Human Resources. One of my first responsibilities as chief financial officer of the college was to manage the reallocation of resources in order to implement the strategic plan. Since then, Facilities Management, Hospitality Services, Information Technology Services and Campus Safety have also been added to my portfolio and now report to the Office of Finance, Planning and Operations.
My responsibilities range from ensuring the financial stability of the college to managing several committees of the Board of Trustees to hiring architects and contractors for construction projects, along with other things.
I am an avid New York sports fan (where I grew up) and I really enjoy exploring LA to discover excellent places to eat.
Charlie Cardillo – Vice President for Institutional Advancement
I moved from Massachusetts with my family in July 2016 to join Occidental as the new vice president for institutional advancement. Previously, I served in similar capacities at Harvard. My role is to partner with colleagues and volunteers to attract and encourage aspirational levels of philanthropic support to embolden Occidental’s future. I believe strongly that a liberal arts experience should be immersive, intensive and present amidst the challenges and possibilities of our time. There is no better environment in which to benefit from such a transformative opportunity than in a major global urban center like LA.
Between my children’s activities (and rarely during), I voraciously follow the progress of Liverpool Football Club and would enjoy meeting other fans or rivals to talk about all things Premier League.
Erica O’Neal Howard – Acting Dean of Students
I came to Occidental in July 2011 as an associate dean of students. For the past year, I have served as acting dean of students with responsibility for the entire division of student affairs. My division works to help students engage fully in their Occidental education by providing opportunities to engage outside of the classroom. These opportunities include leadership opportunities on campus and in the community, resources for students’ holistic well-being, residential spaces that allow for greater engagement in the campus community and activities for students to reflect, share and learn with others from different backgrounds and perspectives.
Occidental students are bright, passionate about big issues in the world and incredibly energetic. I thoroughly enjoy the gift of working daily with them and all of my thoughtful and dedicated campus colleagues.
James Uhrich – Associate Vice President and Chief Information Officer
I have worked at Occidental for just over six years as the associate vice president for information technology services (ITS) and as chief information officer for one year. My team provides the technical infrastructure, services and support that allow all members of the community access to the resources they need to thrive at Occidental. The guiding principle of ITS is to foster an environment that values optimism, collaboration, teamwork, creativity and resourcefulness. We endeavor to provide the community with the highest standards of customer service, system reliability and organizational effectiveness to support the mission of the college and enhance every academic experience. Working to achieve these goals and provide our students with the best possible technical services is what drives me and makes me love my job.
One last thing to know about me is that you will often see me running (or at times being pulled) around campus with my dog Finn, a 4-year-old Labrador retriever, who loves to jump in all of the lovely fountains on campus.
Jonathan Veitch – President
It’s been my privilege to serve as president of Occidental since 2009. I’m here because of my passionate belief that the liberal arts are essential for a life well lived. Having worked with faculty and the campus community to develop a strategic plan for the college, my job is to help execute that plan in furtherance of Occidental’s mission.
While fundraising and much of the rest of my work necessarily takes place behind the scenes, the goal is always the same — to enhance your Occidental education and set you up for success. One of the best parts of my job is seeing Occidental students in action, whether as researchers, athletes, artists or entrepreneurs.
I’m proud to be the first Occidental president who’s an LA native.
Kerry Thompson – Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College
I am an associate professor of biology with a master’s degree in psychology and a doctorate in neuroscience. I ran a research lab for five years at the VA Hospital in west Los Angeles before arriving at Occidental in 2005. I became the interim vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college July 1, 2016 and will serve in that capacity until we hire a new dean. During my term I am privileged to be involved with reviewing and potentially reshaping our general education program.
The dean’s office recruits new faculty, supports their professional development, reviews the curriculum, promotes research and provides academic support for students. In addition to the academic departments, the dean’s office oversees: advising, the Hameetman Career Center, the Center for the Digital Liberal Arts and library, the Center for Community Based Learning, the International Programs Office, national awards and pre-health advising, Oxy Arts, registrar and the writing center.
The close interactions with Occidental students that I have enjoyed as a professor here have made this a rewarding job. I would like students to know that I am committed to the college and its mission and that I hope to make a meaningful impact on the academic program.
Leora Freedman – General Counsel
I became Occidental’s in-house general counsel in 2014. My responsibilities cover any and all legal matters — from contracts to lawsuits. As a member of the senior administrative leadership team, I am involved in the day-to-day operations of the college. I also serve as the secretary to the Board of Trustees and oversee risk management.
I co-chaired the chief diversity officer (CDO) search last year and am co-chairing the vice president for student affairs and dean of students search this year.
Among my goals as general counsel are helping the college run effectively and fairly through well-articulated policies, procedures and processes.
I love working in higher education, and I believe in the mission of public education.
Marsha Schnirring – Chief of Administrative Affairs, Office of the President
I came to Occidental in 2006 as the instructional services librarian. Since then I have served as the founding director of the Center for the Digital Liberal Arts (2009), associate vice president for scholarship technology (2010) and now chief of administrative affairs (2014). In my present position, my primary foci are: coordination and communication between the office of the president and the senior leadership team, faculty and staff; leading/guiding special projects (i.e. senior-level searches; co-chairing the shared governance working group); community building and listening to all campus constituencies.
I’m married, have a daughter who lives in Washington D.C., and I am an avid golfer.
Marty Sharkey – Associate Vice President, Marketing & Communications
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time at Occidental since arriving in June 2015. The interactions I’ve had with students, faculty and staff have given me a great appreciation for the college. I oversee college communications. Our team provides the campus community, as well as prospective students, alumni and the public with a look at what makes Occidental special. Our work cuts across all aspects of the college, with an equal emphasis on external and internal audiences. Knowing that I have a direct impact on the success of students during their time at Occidental and after graduating is what keeps me coming to work each day.
I love playing basketball and can occasionally be found in Rush Gym during the weekend playing pick-up ball.
Rhonda Brown – Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer
I became Occidental’s first vice president for equity and inclusion and chief diversity officer (CDO) Feb. 1, 2016. I work closely with the president, faculty, students, administrators and staff to help Occidental build a more diverse and inclusive campus community. This summer, Intercultural Affairs (ICA) began reporting to me. This provides a natural connection between the CDO and underrepresented, LGBTQIA and first-generation students at Occidental.
Prior to coming to Occidental, I served as Temple University’s associate vice president for institutional diversity, equity advocacy and leadership. As the first person in that role, I was responsible for student diversity initiatives, programming and advocacy, as well as faculty recruitment and retention, and multicultural education and training for faculty and staff.
Vince Cuseo, Vice President of Enrollment and Dean of Admission
I’m an Occidental teenager, beginning my 17th year in increasingly more responsible positions in the office of admission. I’m just one of many who help enroll the next new class of students. Our Collins House staff is buttressed by a large cohort of student workers and volunteers who serve as our most compelling and authentic advocates. Despite the long hours and increasing pressures of this profession, spreading the good word about Occidental to prospective students is a labor of love. Occidental has soul!
A fun fact, or a seeming contradiction, about me is that I’m a militantly unpretentious native New Yorker.
Other administrators reporting directly to the president**
Jaime Hoffman – Associate Vice President and Director of Athletics
I’m entering my 12th year at Occidental. I came in as the women’s basketball coach and became associate director in my third year, after a championship basketball season. I oversee 21 varsity sports, club sports, intramural sports, physical activity (PHAC) classes and the wellness program. We are involved with recruiting prospects, enhancing the Occidental student experience and staying connected with our alumni.
As an administrator, the bottom line goal is constant: adding value to the student experience at Occidental through athletics. We have strategic goals of building on our rich history of competitive excellence. Part of that excellence translates into improving facilities. We are currently planning for upgrades to existing athletic facilities and building new ones that will be assets for the entire Occidental community to enjoy.
What’s most compelling about my work, however, is the opportunity to work with and for such a driven student body.
Ruth Jones – Title IX Coordinator
I came to Occidental in 2014 to serve as the college’s Title IX coordinator, after 17 years as a professor and two years as an associate dean at University of the Pacific’s McGeorge Law School, where I established a domestic violence clinic and taught and published on gender and the law.
As Title IX Coordinator, I work to provide a fair and equitable complaint process and provide students with information, support and resources. I see my overall role as helping to create a more inclusive community. I also currently serve as co-chair, with Professor Alexandra Puerto, on the vice president for academic affairs/dean of the college search.
I enjoy watching most sports including professional cycling, figure skating, basketball and football.
*These individuals form the college’s current senior administrative leadership team. In the past, this group was sometimes referred to as senior staff or even the president’s cabinet.
**Hoffman and Jones both report directly to the president. They interact with the senior administrative leadership team in a variety of ways, but they are not regular attendees at senior administrative leadership team meetings.
According to the Occidental website, the Faculty Council serves as an academic advisory source for the college. The purpose of Faculty Council is for faculty to govern themselves and faculty committees as well as collaborate with the administration and the student body, according to Faculty Council President Anthony Chase.
This semester, Chase said, faculty and staff are working to increase student understanding by prioritizing transparency and communication with the student body. Instead of ad hoc student-faculty communication, Chase said the college needs to solidify an integrated structure of communication.
“It’s become increasingly obvious that it is urgent that we have more communication, that communications between all campus constituencies need to be extended and intensified and the relationship between students and faculty should extend outside the classroom,” Chase said.
Faculty Council is made up of 15 subcommittees, each of which provides recommendations on that committee’s focus to the whole committee.