Search for new SAO director begins


Photo courtesy of Students Activities Office

Although he’s preparing for his last semester at Calvin, Director of Student Activities Ken Heffner’s office appears as lively as it ever did, still plastered with posters and mementos of SAO events from years past. “In the meantime we’re going to function like normal,” said Heffner.

The search for a new director of student activities, now underway, comes after a period of community unrest surrounding the future of SAO since the elimination of Heffner’s full-time position last spring.

The collaborative efforts of students and administration resulted in a fundraising plan designed to “ensure a full-time staff person and a full operating budget for the next four years.” During this time, an endowment is being pursued by the Gift Officers of the Development Office. “That’s a hurdle,” said Heffner. “Just because they’re instructed [to search for an endowment] doesn’t mean they’ll find it… So it’s on their radar. They’re out there looking for that money.”

As of Sept. 5, 2019, the campaign has raised $41,662 of its $150,000 goal to be reached by the end of the year, up from $15,115 since Chimes last reported on the strategy.

“We are planning to kind of wake up the Save SAO group again,” Heffner added. “Now that school has started… [and] we have more news to tell them… there’s a way to kind of get things going again, hopefully raise some more money.”

“Whether or not we reach our $150,000 goal by the end of the year,” said Vice President of Student Life Sarah Visser, “we’re committed to using all of the funds raised thus far to maximize the impact of the Director of Student Activities position.” 

The amount of money raised so far is enough to fund the new position for two years at 0.75 full-time equivalency, up from the guaranteed 0.6 FTE reported last May, though still lower than Heffner’s current full-time position. 

“We’ll continue to attempt to raise funds to try to extend the impact beyond that time,” said Visser, after which the position will have to return to 0.6 FTE, about three-and-a-half days of work, if additional funding is unable to be secured. As with Heffner’s current position, the new director would work alongside two part-time student workers and 15-25 volunteers.

The operating budget for SAO will remain roughly the same at around $52,000, according to Heffner. “That [the operating budget] wasn’t the issue,” Heffner said. “The issue was the payroll.” 

Applications for the new position are already coming in. Candidates will undergo what Heffner called “the usual interview process.” A search team will be headed by John Britton, associate dean of campus involvement and leadership, and will likely be supplemented by other interview committees such as a student interview team and a faculty interview team.

After the interview process, Britton will make an official recommendation to Visser. An offer is hoped to be made in mid-to-late October. The new director will then start working in early November, allowing them to shadow Heffner for a two-month period.

Heffner has been involved in developing the description for the position, which, according to Visser, has not had any additional responsibilities added to it. Though he expects to be on an interview team, Heffner will not be a part of the search committee. “You can’t pick your successor,” he said.

Heffner’s final SAO concert will be Over the Rhine on Friday, Dec. 6, fittingly the very first band he booked at SAO’s inception some 26 years ago. 

After leading the Artist Collaborative interim to Northern Ireland this coming January alongside his wife Gail for the second year in a row, Heffner said he plans to volunteer with political campaigns for the election year and get involved with climate change action.