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Ole Miss Musings: Vice Chancellor For Student Affairs Discusses University's Current State

HottyToddy.com had the distinct pleasure to meet recently with our Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Dr. Brandi Hephner LaBanc. Dr. LaBanc’s youthful energy and passion for her job are contributing greatly to the success at Ole Miss. She has been with the University now five years and the dividends are tallying up!

HottyToddy.com: Dr. LaBanc, what persuaded you to come to Oxford?
Dr. LaBanc: Initially, it was definitely the job; then I met the people! I had never been to Mississippi prior to my interview and did not have a strong perception. However, the image of the university was and is outstanding.
HottyToddy.com: Admissions is under your authority. What are our current numbers?
Dr. LaBanc: As of fall 2016,  the Oxford campus had 20,455 students enrolled. Our regional campuses increase this to 21,260 and our entire enrollment which includes UMC totals 24,250.
HottyToddy.com: Do we have a Master Plan and if so, what is our targeted enrollment?
Dr. LaBanc: The simple answer is that we do not have a target enrollment. We have modeled facility, space, human resource needs, etc. based on a future enrollment number of 30,000 students in Oxford. That is just a figure we use to better understand how much growth we can handle. However, in order to reach that plateau, the infrastructure including parking and new buildings has to be present—we are not there. The demand continues to be very great, but we are managing the growth with great care.
HottyToddy.com: It appears, at least on the surface, that our out of state students are increasing dramatically.
Dr. LaBanc: Actually, the overall percentage is 44 which is lower than many other universities in our region. Nonresident fees run about $14,000 a year more than in state. We automatically accept nonresident students with  ACT scores of 22 or higher and a GPA of 2.75 or higher; this is a higher standard than the in-state requirement.  This non-resident academic threshold is one of the ways we carefully manage growth.

However, non-resident students with lower scores can submit a supplemental application.   This extra layer in the application process considers things such as community service and leadership when these levels are not met.
HottyToddy.com: Then is there an emphasis on raising out of state numbers?
Dr. LaBanc: I would say our first priority is Mississippi—we are the flagship!  We have 12 in-state recruiters compared to 4 out of state.
These include 2 in Texas, 1 in Georgia and 1 in Florida. The other campuses we compete with employee double, even triple, that number of out-of-state recruiters.
HottyToddy.com: What is the university’s greatest challenge currently?
Dr. LaBanc: Campus with traditional-aged students continue to struggle with the misuse/abuse of alcohol and drugs. At the root of many of our major issues—behavioral, academic challenges, health—is the misuse of alcohol and/or drugs. We conduct a survey at the start of each semester to determine better what our challenges are in this regard; we use these data to inform our outreach and intervention practices.
The national trend is clearly reflecting earlier exposure. We are confronting this issue through greater educational efforts and working more closely with student organizations including fraternities and sororities (since the research shows they are at at-risk community).
HottyToddy.com:  Is this problem greater at Ole Miss?
Dr. LaBanc: We are a culture that socializes well. In light of this, we are exploring numerous preventive measures to address the problem head on.
HottyToddy.com: Technology is constantly changing our lives. Is there a recent development on campus of note?
Dr. LaBanc: We have recently partnered with a company…LiveSafe which will make our campus even safer. The blue lights around the campus are somewhat antiquated. This new technology allows students to download an app which is a direct link to our campus police dispatch as well as being able to communicate with other students.
Our campus is “very safe” and with this new technology, we should be even more so. Currently, 600 students are utilizing Live Safe and even their parents can download the app from out of state.
HottyToddy.com: Apparently  (and thankfully) we do not have a big problem with crime.
Dr. LaBanc: That is basically correct. We do have minor theft issues to deal with from time to time. Our campus Police Dept. is excellent.
HottyToddy.com: What in your opinion is our greatest attraction?
Dr. LaBanc: The intangibles. The caring attitude of students and faculty along with staff is highly visible. The hospitality leaves a lasting impression during orientation and other visits to the university. Our students demonstrate a high degree of leadership.
It’s who we are and our students want to pass this on to the next generation.
HottyToddy.com: Does the natural beauty of the campus also contribute to our success?
Dr. LaBanc: Definitely, who doesn’t want to go to class in such a beautiful place. Our diversity is another appealing feature that sends out a welcoming message to visitors and prospective students.
HottyToddy.com: Is there any area where improvement is most needed?
Dr. LaBanc: We are doing a very nice job in maintaining our facilities.
We continue to monitor our faculty to student ratio which is currently at 19:1. We need to invest more into staffing and infrastructure in order to continue to offer a great product.


Steve VassalloSteve Vassallo is a HottyToddy.com contributor. Steve writes on Ole Miss athletics, Oxford business, politics and other subjects. He is an Ole Miss grad and former radio announcer for the basketball team. Currently, Steve is a highly successful leader in the real estate business who lives in Oxford with his wife Rosie. You can contact Steve at sovassallo@gmail.com or call him at 985-852-7745.
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