Essential to UM, Pat Whitely ensures campus climate

Dr. Pat Whitely, vice president for Student Affairs, is always on the run. Whether it’s attending meetings with SAFAC, eating lunch with student leaders while they voice their concerns about the University, or taking her daughter to International Week, Whitely’s life is anything but commonplace.

“Every day is different, even though this is my eighth year as vice president. No two days are ever the same,” Whitely said. “The job is intellectually and politically challenging. It’s fun, too – I like working with the students.”

Many appreciate Whitely for her open-door policy and constant contact with students.

“I try to be a good role model. Hopefully I’m seen as down-to-earth,” Whitely said. “I try not to be someone who hides behind the position.”

In order to be the role model that she hopes to be, Whitely has to manage all of her commitments.

“I try not to have a really busy day, in terms of countless meetings,” Whitely said. “I try to be in my office as much as possible.”

Whitely frequently receives invitations to UM affiliated events, both on and off campus. She typically will turn down off-campus events because it takes her away from the students.

“I try not to travel much, especially at the beginning and end of the semesters because that’s when I’m needed most,” Whitely said.

Indeed, turning down those invitations makes a difference to students; Whitely’s presence is felt throughout campus. She is a regular at all of the important events on campus, everything from Funday to Student Government Inauguration.

“A lot of what I do is make good decisions for the students,” Whitely said. “There is a lot of problem-solving in the job. I like being the person who could potentially sway a decision. I like being able to push the straw a little bit more.”

Whitely deals with problems that occur all over campus.

“I work on the culture and climate of the University as well as with fundraising and the trustees,” Whitely said. “I’m responsible for everything outside of the classroom. I help support the academic goals of the institution.”

With the position comes a lot of power, including being the chief appellate officer for the University. Currently, Whitely is in charge of 15 separate departments, including Residence Halls, Multicultural Student Affairs and Wellness and Recreation. She is also involved in the planning for the new Student Activity Center.

“We try to make sure that our services meet the demands of the students,” Whitely said.

In her spare time, Whitely enjoys working out and playing racquetball.

“Exercise is important because the better that I take care of myself, the more energy I have, which helps me do my job better,” Whitely said.

She is also family oriented. The oldest of seven children, Whitely has eight nieces and nephews. She lives with her husband, two year-old daughter and father in Coconut Grove.

Despite the busy and often hectic days, Whitely enjoys every minute of her job.

“I’m a Hurricane and I’m proud to be one,” Whitely said. I