The many hats of Hyatt: A busy fall semester welcomes new VP for student affairs

A deceptive calm welcomed Regina Young Hyatt to Mississippi State University when she arrived July 1.

For three weeks, the new vice president of student affairs lived in a residence hall while campus experienced that unique state of tranquility found at universities during the heat of summer. It gave Hyatt time to settle into life in Starkville and her new role on campus—a grace period to prepare for her first semester as a Bulldog, which started with record-breaking enrollment numbers and hasn’t slowed down since.

“We are attracting a more diverse student body from lots of varied backgrounds, so we need to be prepared to support them in this environment,” Hyatt said. “It means having more: more programs, more housing, more varied opportunities.
“It means bumping up our technology and making available some activities through an online platform so we are reaching our distance students and those who want them digitally.”

Formerly dean of students at the University of Alabama–Huntsville, Hyatt is part of a new generation of student affairs administrators that seeks to incorporate emerging communication-based technology into university programs and activities.

“I am constantly thinking of how we shape our services from a perspective that is technologically enabled,” Hyatt said. “It won’t replace people in our systems and processes, but it’s a tool to help us serve our students more effectively.”

For Hyatt, serving students effectively means helping them successfully move from enrollment to graduation by providing support through the Division of Student Affairs’ three main sections of responsibility: student life, housing and auxiliary services, and health, safety and wellness. This includes everything from student organizations, the university cheerleaders and residence life to food service, campus police and the Longest Student Health Center.

“If you think about the whole student experience, we touch on all of those areas in one way or another,” Hyatt said. “Mississippi State has many very creative programs, so there are a lot of innovative things we can do here.”

Hyatt holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Western Illinois University in political science and college student personnel, respectively, and a doctoral degree in higher education administration from the University of South Florida. With this educational experience, she has a deep understanding of what it means to shape the futures of more than 20,000 students and knows its not something her division can do in isolation.

“I think our work is relational and I can’t be effective in my role as vice president for student affairs if I don’t have those relationships,” Hyatt explained.

With that in mind, she spent her first weeks as a Bulldog meeting with faculty and staff, and as campus sprang back to life with the fall semester, she has continued to meet with groups including students, community leaders and alumni.

She said she hopes these meetings will help not only give insight into the needs and goals of the Mississippi State family, but ultimately lead to programs and results that let students know the Maroon and White family is rooting for them.

“I want students to know we are here to support their success,” Hyatt said. “Whether it’s a matter of motivation, persistence or effort, we will do everything that we can to prop them up so they can carry on toward that degree.

“I want each student’s experience to be one where they know Mississippi State cares about them. That this is a place they can consider home and when they look back they can say, ‘Wow MSU really prepared me not just for a career but for my life as a scholar, as a citizen of the world and as a contributing member of whatever community I live in.’”

Story by Susan Lassetter, Photography by Megan Bean