Campus life VP gets to know Duke

Zoila Airall's "heart and soul" is in the lives of students, making it only natural that she moved to Duke this summer to take a leading position in a revamped Division of Student Affairs.

Formerly the director of institutional diversity at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, Airall recently ascended to the position of assistant vice president for student affairs, joining Sue Wasiolek at that position. Airall will help manage many of Student Affairs' smaller centers and said she came to Durham because she missed working regularly with students.

"At Bryn Mawr, I felt like I was operating in a confine. I was pigeon-holed," Airall said. "I am student-centered, and I feel [student affairs is] where I can do my best work. I love that people here have been so open. I am truly struck by the warmth and welcoming of this campus."

She said her first impressions of Duke's cultural climate have been positive, but she added that the University could improve its percentages of represented minorities and ethnicities.

Airall said Duke's cultural agenda differs from that of Bryn Mawr, an all-female liberal arts college. But she said her past experience is still applicable to her new responsibilities.

"At Bryn Mawr, I was able to see how communities form. It will enable me to see new possibilities [at Duke]," Airall said.

Diversity, culture and the community will continue to be a significant part of Airall's professional life at Duke. As assistant vice president, Airall will oversee the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture, the Women's Center, the Community Service Center, the International House, the Multicultural Center and the Center for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Life.

Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta said she has made quick progress since her arrival Aug. 1.

"She's quickly begun to identify key issues that fall within the campus life worlds and has developed individual and team relationships with her staff," said Moneta, who previously worked with Airall at the University of Pennsylvania. "It's already been a delight to have Zoila Airall on board, and I anticipate that our campus life activities and initiatives will be well served by her presence."

Airall, a Rutgers University graduate, traces her interests in culture, diversity and minorities to her childhood. Because her father was in the military, Airall lived in Panama, Thailand and Germany before going to college.

"[My interest] has a lot to do with the way I was raised," Airall said. "I had seen a lot of the world my college friends hadn't seen, and I was exposed to lots of different cultures."

Placing a high priority on collaborative work, Airall hopes to meet and bring together as many campus figures as possible to discuss ideas. Airall also wants to be a strong advocate for the directors of the different centers she coordinates. "The better I can be for them, the better they can be for their student constituency," Airall said. "These center directors have done a lot and are multi-talented people, and my professional life can only be enhanced by working with them."

Karen Krahulik, LGBT Center director, said she eagerly anticipates working with Airall, especially to find increased space for the center's activities.

"Dr. Airall has proven herself already to be an exemplary leader for the campus life team. I hope and have faith that the campus life program will reflect her visions and goals for the campus," Krahulik said.

Although Leon Dunkley, director of the soon-to-be-renovated Mary Lou Williams Center, has not yet determined specific goals for his collaboration with Airall, he expressed enthusiasm nevertheless.

"Our initial meetings have been fabulous," Dunkley said. "She is open, accessible and friendly. She will bring lots of energy to campus life."


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