New Faces of the University

Palvih Bhana — Coordinator of Student Programs

On the wall in the office of Palvih Bhana, UT’s new Coordinator of Student Programs, is the practical aphorism of Mahatma Gandhi: “be the change you wish to be in the world.” If she follows Gandhi’s advice, Bhana must wish for a world of active and involved citizens.

Ever since her undergraduate days at Kansas University, where she served in all kinds of positions, including President, with the Student Alumni Association-“they’re kind of like UT’s diplomats,” she explains-the Student Union and other organizations, Bhana has been obsessed with student involvement on campus.

Though her degree from KU was in journalism, and she attempted to work for three years at Walt Disney World, her passion of student affairs could not be stifled. Finally she decided to pursue it, picking up a master’s degree from the University of South Florida in student affairs this past May. And when asked what she most looks forward to for the upcoming school year, she immediately responds that personally, she can’t wait to become more involved on campus.

“It’s great to be on this campus,” Bhana excitedly proclaims when thinking over her new job, which includes the role of advisor to Student Productions. After what she declared an “extensive search,” UT ended up being her first choice for employment because it has “a great atmosphere” and a smaller size which brings a welcomed change of scenery. Though she is still learning about UT and its culture, Bhana is already anxious to jump into the action this fall and help foster a campus of active and involved students.

Bhana sees her role at UT as one of encouraging students to become involved. Not only is she convinced, through personal experience, that student involvement develops students socially and builds social networks, but she also sees involvement as a way to help students adapt to college life and give them something to take pride in. Indeed, as she likes to say, when you become heavily involved on campus, “you become the campus.”

Her enthusiasm for involvement goes well with her views concerning Student Productions. Bhana sees the ideal relationship between student activities organizations and the student body as one of collaboration, and she makes clear that “SP is here to serve the students.” If SP does its job, according to Bhana, it will conduct its programming so that students are excited about campus, which is likely to result in a more active campus community.

Though extremely passionate about student involvement and campus activism, Bhana has found that the best approach is a hands-off one, one that is “student-focused, student-run, and all about the students.” She sees her job as providing students the proper support and encouragement; students will develop on their own through involvement.

Bhana gets the greatest rush from watching students grow and develop by putting on successful events for their peers. After her journey through large universities and even bigger theme parks, she feels truly at home at UT. It is here where she is free to devote all of her time to her passion of student affairs. Future student leaders should get to know Palvih Bhana, because, as she says contentedly while permitting a half-smile, “I don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon.”

Robert Herron — Coordinator of Union Operations

There is no question that the University of Tampa has a different feel in the summer than during the fall and spring semesters. Many students and faculty have commented positively on this summer distinction; it’s quiet, it’s less crowded and it’s much more care-free to be on campus off-season. Not so for Robert Herron, UT’s new Coordinator of Union Operations.

Though he’s only been at UT since June 11th, and has thus only worked on campus during the summer, he’s already longing for the arrival of the full student body, anxious to maintain busier hours and have his days congested with problems to be solved.

This contempt for idleness may seem strange to some, but it is perfectly in character for Herron. Born and bred in St. Petersburg, Herron has always maintained a full plate, so to speak, and finds comfort in a busy schedule.

At the University of South Florida, where he got his undergraduate business degree in 2005, and his master’s degree in student affairs in 2007 (he was a peer of Pahlvi Bhana’s before he became her colleague), his list of extracurricular activities reads like a student activities brochure: Alpha Kappa Psi fraternity, Student Government, campus activities board, homecoming board, etc. It was actually his continuing involvement that compelled him to go into student affairs as a field.

Also while at USF, Herron was a building manager, and he wasn’t the type of building manager that hoped for low tenancy. Quite the opposite, Herron describes himself as a “very neat” (read: organized) person, and he professes to enjoy the operational and managerial part of life.

So when Herron makes comments that might be attacked as platitudes if spoken by others less active, such as that he’s looking forward to the high-paced rhythm of interacting with students or that he’s hoping to be able to serve the students, it’s safe to take his word at face value.

So it is when he declares that the University of Tampa was his number one choice, because he loves the Tampa area but also because it epitomizes a small, private University. As compared with larger schools, Herron was impressed by UT’s lack of overwhelming bureaucracy and the flexibility with which UT positions are run. Doing other jobs aside from your own can foster “diverse professional development,” Herron believes, and is thus enjoying his time at UT so far.

When the fall semester comes, expect his schedule to fill up and his happiness to increase correspondingly. He’s even considering enrolling in UT’s MBA program this January, partly because he “would hate to come to a door that’s not opened,” but also partly because he likes taking on challenges.

“I like being a student, continually learning, which I will get in this job,” Herron anticipates. He couldn’t be more excited about school starting and diving into his new responsibilities.

When asked what two historical figures he would have dinner with if given the possibility, Herron chose two founding fathers, one federalist and one anti-federalist, so that he could gauge the differences and ask questions. When pressed for which federalist and anti-federalist he would choose, he said that he’d leave that to the highest bidder. An indication, no doubt, that much of his emphasis on the operational and managerial stem from his business roots, which he seems not to have forgotten.

Michael Gilmer — Judicial Coordinator

Michael Gilmer, the new Judicial Coordinator at UT, is above all a man of results. His words explaining his professional motivation also serve as a precept of action: “I like to see the difference that I make.” Undoubtedly, it was this desire to see tangible and positive results that finally landed Gilmer in the Office of Student Conduct and tipped the balance of his career in favor of the judicial end of things.

Gilmer’s professional journey has by no means been a straight road to his current position. It has been an extensive and varied ride for him, having lived in Florida, Texas, Massachusetts, Colorado and Georgia before choosing to complete his undergraduate degree in psychology, with a minor in sociology, at Valdosta State University in Georgia.

At Valdosta State, where he also met his future wife, Gilmer worked as a Residence Hall Director and gained valuable experience in the Residence Life side of student affairs. Enjoying his work, he matriculated at the University of South Florida for a master’s degree of Education in College Student Affairs, and continued his role as a Residence Hall Director.

As a psychology major at
Valdosta State, Gilmer had never contemplated a future career at an institution of higher learning; frankly, he thought he “would make more money than people do in education.”

But an internship in the field at a mental rehabilitation clinic left Gilmer disenchanted. His focus on positive results led him back to the world of education, where his tenure as Residence Hall Director had instilled in him a love of working with students.

The shift from Residence Life to student conduct was a gradual yet natural one. It was the one-on-one aspect of the judicial process that eventually won Gilmer’s heart. He loved the personal, tangible results achieved from the one-on-one process. After all, “you know when students walk across the stage to graduate that you impacted their life.”

Gilmer eventually chose student conduct because of its ability to make a difference in the lives of students; he chose UT because of its large residential population, its proximity to friends and family, and the “great opportunity it provides to grow into a branch of student affairs.”

Already Gilmer is impressed with UT and excited about the possibilities that the University presents. “It’s really refreshing to see the level of care that Dean Ruday and Dr. Vaughn have toward their students,” he says elatedly, betraying his excitement for working with a cooperative administration.

Cooperation from the top means that Gilmer is free to pursue his goals, which include a student-run development and mediation project that he doesn’t want affiliated with discipline per se, because “a true mediation is truly confidential.”

As Gilmer prepares himself for the learning curve that accompanies a move from Residence Life to judicial affairs, students will be introduced to his student education approach to judicial affairs, which he maintains “follows suit with what the University of Tampa is all about.” A believer in an open-door policy, Gilmer believes that education develops reflective judgment, and that students are less likely to repeat a violation if they take a moment to reflect. Always maintaining a strict separation between what a student did and who they are, he is able to focus on long-term character development. “Conflict is never comfortable,” he explains, “but if done correctly it can be positive.”

If granted the luxury of dining with any actor on the stage of human history, Gilmer would without hesitation select Malcolm X. Why? Because Malcolm X is the perfect example of a positive character change with far-reaching consequences: he went from being driven by bitterness and anger to being motivated by love. Even when engaging in fanciful hypothetical questions, Gilmer is focused on character change and results. After a long journey, he has truly found his niche as Judicial Coordinator.

Leave a Reply

Back To Top