The Interview USA
University of Houston
Vice President for Student Affairs

Paul Kittle

In today's world, where diverse viewpoints clash online and offline, fostering civil discourse among students is more crucial than ever. Instead of shying away from complex topics, Higher Education (HE) institutions can equip students with the necessary tools to navigate them. To cultivate responsible and productive conversation, education and awareness are crucial building blocks. By equipping students with the necessary knowledge and understanding, we empower them to actively participate in discourse, fostering meaningful exchange of ideas. 

Chris Mansfield, GoodCourse’s Client Services Lead, sat down with Paul Kittle, Vice President for Student Affairs at the University of Houston, to discuss the power of peer-to-peer communication in driving engagement with student support and campus climate initiatives.

Paul's Journey

Chris: Let's start with a brief introduction to yourself and your institution.

It’s a pleasure to connect. I’m Paul Kittle; I serve as the Vice Chancellor and Vice President for Student Affairs at the University of Houston. We’re an urban-based Tier 1 research university with more than 46,000 students. We’re currently ranked 70th as a Top Public School and on our path towards becoming a Top 50 university.

Chris: Do you have a particular focus on student safety post-COVID?

We’ve approached student safety from two key angles: emotional and physical safety. Regarding emotional safety, we’ve developed a web-based resource called CoogsCARE; it’s a one-stop shop for resources designed to foster a culture of care on campus for students, staff and campus visitors. Resources cover mental health support, financial safety, housing and food security, and more. We leverage signage and QR codes to ensure students have easy access to the resource hub whenever needed. We also work with students to brand the program and get the word out.

Being a large urban campus in the heart of Houston with 8,500 residential students, physical safety on campus is paramount, too. Our accredited police force and AI-enabled cameras are examples of how we support student and staff safety. We also partner with the Student Government Association to share key messaging; everyone’s responsible for creating a safe campus, and we want our staff and students to build a culture where people look out for one another.

Chris: What have you found most effective in helping students to engage in respectful dialogue and navigate personal differences? 

As a learning institution, we take an educational approach first. We teach students that conversations can be uncomfortable sometimes; it’s part of engaging in discourse with diverse people across various topics. We also talk about the concepts of free speech and hate speech; when students are educated, they’re empowered to be responsible for themselves and how they engage in conversation with others.

Our role is to create spaces for students to learn, listen, and be heard. A recent example is the Executive Order passed in the state of Texas, addressing acts of antisemitism in HE institutions. We’ve proactively reached out to student organizations to discuss the changes to free speech policies; we want students to be aware and educated so they can engage in respectful dialogue on these types of topical issues.

Chris: How do you approach driving engagement and awareness with inclusion and support initiatives at scale?

We acknowledge that all our students have different needs; our main challenge is working out how to market to our intended audiences. CoogsCARE is a great starting point for covering a broad range of student resources and services. We also place a lot of emphasis on partnerships. Our faculty consistently engage with students; we offer training on resources and topics so they’re equipped to match students with the support they need. We’ve also found peer-to-peer communication much more effective in driving engagement and action than communication delivered via administrative channels. We work with students to hone our social media messaging and amplify engagement through social media networking with student associations.

Chris: What is the best piece of advice you’ve received across the course of your career?

When I first looked to move into a Vice President role, a colleague shared his insights on what institutions look for in administrative leadership. He explained they want authenticity. Authenticity helps you build strong relationships so you can collaborate effectively – business gets done through relationships. I also share this with students, particularly those interested in leadership roles; they’ll see far more success when they build authentic connections with those around them.

Curious to see what the future of training looks like?
Chris Mansfield
Client Services
Chris is one of the Client Service leads at GoodCourse, dedicated to helping institutions better engage their audience to create a more inclusive, safer, and more successful environment. To request to be featured on the series, get in touch at

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