The Interview USA
Boston University
Interim Associate Provost & Dean of Students at Boston University

Jason Campbell-Foster

Many Higher Education (HE) leaders seek out a career in Student Affairs, driven by a desire to make a positive impact on younger generations, but often they’ve benefited from the positive impact of a great mentor at some point in their career too.

Jason Campbell-Foster, Interim Associate Provost and Dean of Students at Boston University (BU) sat down with Kitty Hadaway, GoodCourse Universities Lead, to discuss the impact mentors have had on his life, fostering inclusion on campus post-Covid, and more.

Jason's Journey

Kitty: Could you introduce me to your current role and what brought you there?

I am the Interim Associate Provost and Dean of Students at BU. My role here is all about supporting and empowering students to realize their full potential and advocating for the removal of barriers that impede their success. Overall, it’s about sustaining a robust, interactive, and inclusive learning environment for students. 

The mentors and coaches in my life made me realize that I have the capacity to lead and make a positive impact. Like many HE leaders in this field, I was actively involved in campus life as an undergraduate, but I also benefited from the advice of some great mentors, which at key moments in my life supported me through my own struggles. 

During my undergraduate years, I relied a lot on those in the Student Services field to guide me through my time at university. I was a first-generation college student and lost both of my parents in my teenage years. Student Services providers showed up for me in ways I didn’t realize I needed support in. I felt a strong affinity for the department because those working within it helped me thrive, and I wanted to give back. 

Kitty: We’ve heard a lot from other university leaders about fostering a sense of belonging and inclusion on campus in a post-Covid world. It would be great if you could touch on some of the initiatives you’ve worked on to promote that.

One of the reasons I’m proud to work at BU is that they’ve always placed belonging at the center of their work. The ethos of this institution is to find your people — and then learn to engage with people that are different from you. Our orientation program has always given significant airtime to these issues, and we’re very aware that student success is linked to feelings of belonging. 

One of the reasons I’m proud to work at BU is that they’ve always placed belonging at the center of their work.

During Covid, we actively engaged with our students on how to stay connected when they weren’t on campus. That sense of belonging permeated through our community. It used to be seen as very en vogue to have separate year councils, but now students want to know who’s in their class, in a kind of old-fashioned way. Similarly, we’re also working on centering belonging within our academic communities too. 

Kitty: Student safety on campus is also a significant concern. What’s your approach to making progress in this area?

Sexual misconduct is a complex societal issue that requires a multi-disciplinary response. We recently got together to address the idea of sexual misconduct from a variety of vantage points. Both the faculty and the student body expressed an interest in creating a social norms campaign to raise awareness, but we also wanted to look at what we’re offering now and what we can improve, whilst laying the foundation for what would be a campus-wide campaign. 

Kitty: Where do you see students engaging the most and the least?

Our students are generally ‘all-in’ when it comes to getting involved in student organizations, but we see the lowest engagement in some of the skill-building workshops we put on. It’s becoming apparent to us that we’re creating important sessions that students are asking for, but it’s hard to get students to show up to them. So one of the challenges we’re working on at the moment is how to provide students with the sessions they need when they can’t commit to a full hour of their time. 

Students’ time is valuable, and sometimes it can be hard for them to prioritize things — so we have to think hard about how we push out information in small snippets, that encourage students to learn more. 

Kitty: You held leadership positions at Northeastern too. How did that vary?

The two institutions are a mile apart but couldn’t be more different. Northeastern emphasizes a global model, they have a number of global academic centers, and there’s a big push for global learning. 

BU on the other hand emphasizes the residential community, so we have the ability to look at campus traditions that everyone can engage in, and how we can support students that study abroad — so the conversations are a little bit different. Arguably, engagement is easier here but still difficult with its own unique challenges. 

3 Quickfire Questions 

Kitty: What’s your top piece of advice for anyone entering the HE space?

Every professional needs to establish guiding principles for their work that’ll serve as a foundation for their career. Often, there’s no prescribed way to handle any situation, so when all else fails you have to rely on your own values. My values of honesty and ‘do no harm’ are carried with me all the time. 

Kitty: Who do you admire the most in the HE space?

Dr. Laura Wankel. She thinks deeply about intersectionality, is an expert administrator and researcher, and really helps bring meaning to work — it’s not just about student satisfaction, but about learning and development. 

Kitty: What book has been most influential to you?

Five Days At Memorial by Sharie Fink. It’s about five days in a hospital after Hurricane Katrina. 

Curious to see what the future of training looks like?
Kitty Hadaway
Universities Lead
Kitty is passionate about using technology to create safer and more inclusive campuses, and is an expert on student engagement and delivering training at scale. Get in touch at to learn more.

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