The Interview USA
Collin College
Chief Student Success Officer

Jay Corwin

In the realm of student success, the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) cannot be overstated. Jay Corwin, the Chief Student Success Officer at Collin College, brings a wealth of experience and a strong commitment to these crucial aspects of Higher Education (HE).

Jay sat down with Kitty Hadaway, Co-Host of The Interview, to discuss issues ranging from creating a positive learning environment to the challenge of ensuring student safety on campus.

Jay's Journey

Kitty: Let’s start with an introduction to your current role and institution.

I’m the Chief Student Success Officer at Collin College, a community college district just north of Dallas. I think it’s the best job in the world! Every day, I work with an amazing team to help students find their paths. I oversee all student success functions to create a positive atmosphere for students. I’ve been in the role for about three and a half years since I moved here from Oklahoma. Collin College provides excellent opportunities for access, and we can do things here to support students that few others can.

Kitty: So, what brought you to student affairs? And how did you end up at Collin College?

I started as a Pre-Med student at the University of Oklahoma. I got involved in leadership opportunities on campus and found some amazing mentors who helped shape my trajectory. After realizing I could have a career in student success, I dropped all my science labs to pursue it. My mentors demonstrated every day how to put students first and be a positive influence in their lives. 

Kitty: You’ve earned a Ph.D. in Adult and Higher Education. How has that informed the work you are doing today?

It was a good fit for me. I was single and had no social life, so I kept taking classes! It all worked out in the end, as I defended my thesis and got engaged in the same month. It’s a tough road, but my doctorate has opened some doors, allowing me to teach graduate classes in Student Services. It’s allowed me to advance my career rapidly and helped me secure my position at Collin College. Most importantly, it’s taught me how to think from different perspectives and navigate obstacles. Pursuing a Ph.D. is a huge commitment, and while I certainly recommend it, you need to make sure it’s the right fit. 

Kitty: You’ve worked at several institutions during your career. How has your experience of different learning environments shaped your approach?

I was at the University of Oklahoma for 12 years and then at the University of Central Oklahoma for 13 years before moving to Collin. Both gave me unique opportunities to develop my career and focus on student success. I’ve had the privilege of experiencing different educational systems, from universities to community colleges, and that’s provided me with the tools to navigate difficult situations. 

Kitty: Throughout your career, how have you seen the student experience and the role of student affairs leaders evolve?

The answer I’ll give today is a lot different from the answer I would have given you three years ago. While the purpose of leaders hasn’t changed, how we work has evolved drastically. The pandemic gave students confidence that they could succeed in a virtual classroom, and access to HE has expanded greatly. As practitioners, we need to keep up with the pace of that change. At the same time, we have excellent in-person resources that we want to fully utilize, so we need to strike a delicate balance.

Kitty: Many leaders have discussed the need to advance cultural competence on campus to create a more welcoming environment. What initiatives have you been working on in this regard?

At Collin, we have a student body that is becoming more diverse every year. We’re on track to become a Hispanic-serving institution, and we are providing more and more resources in Spanish. We also have a large population of international and first-generation students. When I see those first-generation students at graduation, it always brings a tear to my eye; I love the way that education can bring generational change. We’re always working to boost our retention and success rates and expanding services to support underrepresented groups. One initiative I’m especially proud of is our Fostering Success program, which helps support students who came from the foster care system. 

Kitty: Freedom of speech is a divisive issue on college campuses. How can we encourage students to engage in difficult conversations?

Protecting free speech is an important duty that presents unique challenges, especially when speech skirts the boundary of unlawful behavior. It’s pivotal to understand that free speech and human decency don’t need to be in opposition. Robust conversations can take place without sacrificing truth, freedom, or safety.

Kitty: Student safety is a huge concern across the sector. How can we help students feel safe on campus?

That’s pretty personal for us. You’ve probably heard of the recent tragedy which occurred at the Allen Premium Outlets. That’s about a half mile from here. It hit the community hard, and we lost one of our former students. Just before that, we had a false alarm about an active shooter. So campus safety is a focal point. We’ve developed a multi-tiered approach that allows us to utilize technology to respond more rapidly. Student affairs professionals are some of the first people on the scene in a crisis, so we’re prioritizing training to ensure we’re prepared.

Kitty: Where are you seeing students getting engaged the most? 

Engagement is a particular challenge for community colleges. We have 12 campuses and centers, and we try to create engaging events across all of them. We also have a diverse age range in our student body, so we need to think creatively to engage everyone. We understand that highly-engaged students have a much higher chance of graduating, so we’re doing everything we can.

Kitty: What’s your top tip for anyone starting in HE?

Put a folder in the bottom drawer of your desk. Every time you get a card or thank-you note from a student, put it in there. When times get tough, those memories can lift you up. 

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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