Five Questions with Georgia State University’s Dr. Darryl B. Holloman

By Katrice L. Mines

Dr. Darryl B. Holloman was named dean of students at Georgia State University in September 2014, an elevation that answered a lifelong quest for him. Holloman, also assistant vice president for Student Affairs, is right where he believes he can be most effective — working with a diverse and eclectic population of people, as he says, “students from every walk of life and who are attracted to [Georgia State University] because I believe they see themselves fitting into the campus culture.” For him, it is a microcosm of the real world, and that kind of day-to-day engagement is rewarding.

The Atlanta native with deep roots at GSU, having worked in the Office of the Dean of Students as an undergraduate and earning his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees from the university, plans to focus his efforts on advocacy, making sure students know they have a voice in the Division of Student Affairs; and conduct, handling a myriad of discipline and Code of Conduct issues. Also an avid researcher, Holloman examines the cultural and historical contexts that influence the persistence and academic attainment of male college students. His most recent manuscript which he co-edited with Spencer Platt and Lemuel Watson is entitled “Boyhood to Manhood: Deconstructing Black Masculinity Through a Life Span Continuum” was released this spring.

AT: What about that post inspired you to pursue it?
Holloman:
As an undergraduate student, I was a student worker in the Dean of Students Office.  Very early I was able to see the critical role that a dean of students played in the growth and development of young college students. I quickly realized that the dean of students function was a pivotal position for students because he or she served as an advocate. As I entered higher education as a professional, I determined that my goal was to pursue and model what I had witnessed first-hand as a student myself.

AT: How did your trajectory to this point sharpen you or more specifically, how did you prepare for this time — the coming together of your preparedness and the opportunity? And how did you prepare to be a good dean of students?

Holloman: I have had a fairly unique higher education experience in that I have had the opportunity to work in various capacities within a college setting. For example, I have served as a tenure track faculty member, where I have taught courses that ranged from research methods to educational psychology.  In fact, at my previous institution I held a duel appointment, where I was an administrator but also taught in a tenure-track position. I was preparing my tenure dossier the month that I accepted the job at Georgia State University.  That was probably one of the toughest professional decisions that I have made in my career because I had worked so diligently towards securing tenure. I had done a fair bit of publishing and had presented at a number of professional conferences. Once I came to the interview, however, I realized that the energy at Georgia State University was so attractive. There were so many wonderful things happening in my Division and on the Georgia State campus. Besides it was such an honor to have the possibility of working and contributing back to my alma mater.

I believe working in various capacities in higher education as well as working at various institutions has helped to shape my understanding of how a college works.  I think being well-versed in the culture of higher education has helped me better understand its governance structure as well as develop great relationships. I feel the key to being a good dean Dr. Darryl B. Holloman was named dean of students at Georgia State University in September 2014, an elevation that answered a lifelong quest for him. Holloman, also assistant vice president for Student Affairs, is right where he believes he can be most effective — working with a diverse and eclectic population of people, as he says, “students from every walk of life and who are attracted to [Georgia State University] because I believe they see themselves fitting into the campus culture.” For him, it is a microcosm of the real world, and that kind of day-to-day engagement is, for him, rewarding.

The Atlanta native with deep roots at GSU, having worked in the Office of the Dean of Students as an undergraduate and earning his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees from the university, plans to focus his efforts on advocacy, making sure students know they have a voice in the Division of Student Affairs; and conduct, handling a myriad of discipline and Code of Conduct issues. Also an avid researcher, Holloman examines the cultural and historical contexts that influence the persistence and academic attainment of male college students. His most recent manuscript which he co-edited with Spencer Platt and Lemuel Watson is entitled “Boyhood to Manhood: Deconstructing Black Masculinity through A Life Span Continuum” was released this spring.

AT: What about that post inspired you to pursue it?

Holloman: As an undergraduate student, I was a student worker in the Dean of Students Office.  Very early I was able to see the critical role that a dean of students played in the growth and development of young college students. I quickly realized that the dean of students function was a pivotal position for students because he or she served as an advocate. As I entered higher education as a professional, I determined that my goal was to pursue and model what I had witnessed first-hand as a student myself.

AT: How did your trajectory to this point sharpen you or more specifically, how did you prepare for this time — the coming together of your preparedness and the opportunity? And how did you prepare to be a good dean of students?

Holloman: I have had a fairly unique higher education experience in that I have had the opportunity to work in various capacities within a college setting. For example, I have served as a tenure track faculty member, where I have taught courses that ranged from research methods to educational psychology.  In fact, at my previous institution I held a duel appointment, where I was an administrator but also taught in a tenure-track position. I was preparing my tenure dossier the month that I accepted the job at Georgia State University.  That was probably one of the toughest professional decisions that I have made in my career because I had worked so diligently towards securing tenure. I had done a fair bit of publishing and had presented at a number of professional conferences. Once I came to the interview, however, I realized that the energy at Georgia State University was so attractive. There were so many wonderful things happening in my Division and on the Georgia State campus. Besides it was such an honor to have the possibility of working and contributing back to my alma mater.

I believe working in various capacities in higher education as well as working at various institutions has helped to shape my understanding of how a college works.  I think being well-versed in the culture of higher education has helped me better understand its governance structure as well as develop great relationships. I feel the key to being a good dean of students is a motto that I often share with my staff. At the end of the day, I tell people, “Good work stands.”  That is actually my personal and professional creed.  If you do “good work,” people may not agree with you, they may not understand your position, they sometimes may not even like the stance that you have to take; but if you try your level best to do good work no one can take that away from you.

AT: What impactful advice did you receive from a mentor or colleagues along your professional journey that you find yourself referring back to?

Holloman: I have learned a lot from so many people along my personal and professional journey. For example, as a kid I learned a really strong work ethic from my dad. Daddy was a fireman and had wanted to be one since he was a kid, so when he got the opportunity to be one did not take it lightly.  He was a very hard working man. My mom is a very passionate person, who was always fighting for the “under-dog.” She really taught me how to empathize and relate to the experiences of all people know matter what was their background. I can remember mama always telling me to stop being so “haughty;” she really helped me to remain humble and put things into perspective. I think each mentor, colleague or boss that you encounter can teach you a great deal — the good ones as well as the bad ones. For example, one of my bosses, when I worked in New Jersey, really taught me the value of not having to fight every battle and to work on taking the high road. My current boss has really taught me how to be very analytical in perspective. He has taught me to understand the responsibilities that we have due to our positions on campus and how that responsibility cannot be taken for granted.

DHolloman

AT: What piece of guidance do you find yourself offering to students most often?

Holloman: I think I most often now I find myself telling students to slow down just a bit. Students today go full pace and sometimes I think such a rapid pace wears on them. I tell them that these are the best times of their lives. I mean, college is a wonderful place. A college campus is filled with such vibrant thoughts and challenges you to really begin to learn more about yourself, so don’t rush through that experience. I also find myself telling students as well as young professionals to follow their passion. We live in such stringent economic times that many young people are almost obsessed with making a lot of money, and making it as quickly as possible. I understand the value of a dollar but you also don’t want to choose a major or career based solely on that because you may find that you are unhappy with your job in the long run. I love what I do! There is nothing else that I could have imagined me doing and I believe that is because I have a passion for the work that I do. I really enjoy working with students, getting to know them and understanding how young people change our culture and perceptions.  Having that passion helps to sustain you, it keeps you connected to the work. So I guess my best advice is do what you love and follow your passion.

AT: If you could be sure that you were doing one thing exceptionally well in your post, what would that be?

Holloman: I think the most important thing in the work that I do is really building and understanding relationships; knowing how not to make or develop preconceived notions about a person too soon. You know, I grew up in the south and had the great fortune of knowing my great-grandparents, so we spent a lot of time sitting on front porches and really getting to know people … understanding the experiences of our neighbors.  That experience really helped me to understand human dynamics in a wonderful way, seeing my great-grandparents treat everyone with respect, even when that person may have lived differently than them. That was a powerful lesson for a kid. So I would say that understanding people and respecting them helps me in the work that I do daily. AT

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