Dr. Calvin Phillips joins University’s senior administrative team

Phillips will serve as vice president for student affairs and dean of students beginning on March 1 pending Board of Regents approval.


Student Affairs Vice President Calvin Phillips poses for a portrait. Photo courtesy of university of Minnesota Relations.

Abbey Machtig and Ethan Fine

The University of Minnesota recently announced that Dr. Calvin Phillips will join the University as the vice president for student affairs and dean of students.

Though Phillips’ employment does not begin until March and is dependent on approval by the Board of Regents, the University is currently working to transition Phillips into the position through conversations with administrators and, eventually, with students. This announcement concludes a year-long, national search for candidates to fill the position.

Phillips previously worked at Eastern Michigan University (EMU).

Upon arriving at the University, Phillips said he plans to perform a self-assessment to identify future projects and “to truly understand about the experience of the student on the campus.”

This self-assessment process will include talking with students, both undergraduate and graduate, staff, faculty and administrators.

“Some things that may work well at Eastern [Michigan University] may not necessarily work at your institution. Your needs may be different and I think that’s part of what I’m going to be really working hard at and assessing,” Phillips said in an interview with the Minnesota Daily.

The vice president for student affairs oversees 20 units and over 500 employees. Among these are Boynton Health, Student Legal Services, fraternity and sorority life and Student Unions and Activities. The position also oversees a budget of $94 million.

Phillips will report directly to President Joan Gabel and serve on her senior leadership team.

Last March, the search for the position was paused for four months due to the pandemic. Administrators felt they were prepared for this possibility, said Michael Goh, vice president for equity and diversity at the University and co-chair of the search committee.

“That’s based on our search firm’s experience with other searches that had already launched during the pandemic. We were also considerate of recent experiences of other searches from other universities. When all of those checkboxes were met, we agreed to launch,” Goh said.

Phillips has occupied several administrative roles at universities throughout the country, most recently at EMU as the vice president for student affairs. Prior to EMU, Phillips held the same position at both Northern State University and the University of Texas-Pan American.

At a public forum in December, Phillips said that both the diverse population of the Twin Cities and his desire to gain a better understanding of the recent calls for racial justice following the police killing of George Floyd attracted him to the University.

“I look at that as part of my responsibility, to be a part of that change to say that this is not who we are as a community and really send the message to people about the importance of an inclusive community,” Phillips said.

During his time at EMU, Phillips worked to establish several diversity-focused initiatives and committees aimed at improving the student experience for students from underrepresented groups. He also introduced a Title IX office, a collegiate level esports program and was involved in COVID-19 mitigation efforts at EMU.

“The best way I can describe Calvin is he’s always calm,” Leigh Greden, chief of staff at EMU, said. “He has a very pleasant demeanor. He’s a team player.”

Making connections between stakeholder groups at the University will be a major focus in the beginning stages of his career at the University, Phillips said.

“If people can say they know who the vice president and dean of students is at the University of Minnesota, they know who I am, then I think for me, that’s going to be a win,” Phillips said.

Dr. Phillips will begin at the University on March 1.