Meet OHIO's New VPSA, Dr. Jason Pina

On June 13, Jason will officially begin his new charge as OHIO’s Vice President for Student Affairs. He recently sat down with the division’s communicator to discuss his new role… and much more.

What drew you to apply for this position?
It’s not so much what people say about OHIO. It’s the way people say it. It’s the way people express their passion for working here and being part of the community. It’s the reaction that I received from OHIO’s Student Affairs alums when I told them that I applied for the job. People were like, “If you get the job, don’t screw up. Because we love that place.”

What excites you most about the transition?
I’ve lived in the same house for the last 14 years and worked at four different schools in the area. So I’m excited about the move and the new adventures that it will entail for me, my wife (Shai) and our kids, Myles (10) and Kayla (18). The best jobs I’ve had in Student Affairs are the ones where your public and private life is all wrapped up in the university. And I know that’s the way it is here.

Describe your leadership style.
I come from a place of respect and empowerment. I strive to respect the people I work with, which means they need to be good. And then there’s this idea of empowerment. In truth, I wouldn’t be sitting here if people hadn’t empowered me to do work before I thought I could do it myself. And that’s what I try to do. I want folks to achieve their biggest dreams.

Why did you pursue higher education?
To be honest, I started off with no intention of going into the field. I had a passion for economics and finance. I only pursued a graduate assistantship in student affairs for the free housing. But as soon as I began working as a G.A., I fell in love with the field. I loved the idea that I could spend all day working on financial spreadsheets just as easily as I could spend all day with students. And I could counterbalance the two. To this day, I still thrive on this balance. When students are driving me bananas, I’ve got plenty of paperwork to do. When I’m sick of paperwork, all I have to do is walk down to Baker for five minutes.

How do you approach decision-making?
As VPSA, I have a responsibility to not only advocate for students, but to also include them in university decision-making. From negotiating to event planning, there are so many learning opportunities that students can gain from this process. As a university, we have to empower students and then sit back and let ourselves be amazed by what they can produce.

When you’re not in the office, where can you most likely be found?
I can’t answer that because I don’t want to be found. :) But if I have to…
I’ve run nine marathons in the last three years, so I do like to run. (I’m really slow, so I’ll be on the bike path for a long time.) I also love smoking cigars. So hopefully wherever I live, I’ll have a patio. My couch is also a good bet, as I’m a Netflix binge watcher. Last but not least, I’m a HUGE Patriots fan. If the Patriots are playing, I’ll be glued to Sunday Ticket … pretty much regardless.

What do you like to read?
Over the past six to eight years, I ended up doing much more work with folks who don’t have a student affairs background than those who do. I had to understand their language and their work, so I tended to read books outside of higher ed. On a more personal level, I’ve started getting into James Baldwin. I’m reading “Go Tell It on the Mountain” right now. The three magazines that I have subscriptions to are Harvard Business Review, Runner’s World and Cigar Aficionado. I also listen to a lot of podcasts.

What might colleagues be surprised to learn about you?
I’m a big introvert. People don’t believe me, but I hate public speaking. I don’t get hives or anything, but I typically need about an hour to recover afterwards.

What have you learned about OHIO through the interview process that surprised you?
What’s been pleasantly surprising to me is the depth of long-term planning that is occurring at OHIO. Some of our biggest pain points in higher education stem from the fact that people who preceded us 25 years ago didn’t bite the bullet when the bullet was much smaller. And now we have issues that are much bigger. OHIO seems to have a sense of fiduciary responsibility for the long-term. That piece is so important.

What do you want DOSA staff to know about your charge?
Whenever there is change, it’s going to bring about a bit of anxiety. I understand that it will take time for people to really trust me; that’s human nature. But I want to assure our staff that I wasn’t brought here to reorganize. Right now, I am just looking forward to joining the community.

What inspires you?
A colleague of mine once said, “We’re always going to do what’s right, not what’s easy.” I try to remember that all the time. Sometimes it’s really hard to do. You fight yourself in your angst to get things done. But you always have to stop and ask yourself, “Is this the right thing to do?”