Winston Crisp, former vice chancellor of student affairs at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, will serve as USC’s vice president for student affairs starting Aug. 16, President Carol Folt announced Wednesday.
“I am excited that Winston will be bringing his expertise and enthusiasm to USC,” Folt, who began her duties as president on July 1, said in the announcement. “Our students are sure to benefit from his vision for campus life and his deeply caring approach to student affairs. He is a compassionate and creative leader and always places students first.”
Crisp, who worked at UNC for 26 years — including seven years as vice chancellor — before his retirement last October, will follow Ainsley Carry, who left for the University of British Columbia in April. Crisp will replace Monique Allard, who was appointed as interim vice president after Carry’s departure.
Crisp’s retirement from his position at UNC was never meant to be permanent, he told the Daily Trojan in an interview. During his retirement, he relaxed and “rededicated myself to what matters to me.” He concluded that he still wanted to help students navigate their paths through higher education.
“I still wanted to find a new way and new challenges to allow me to do that,” Crisp told the Daily Trojan. “Luckily, that ended up coinciding with the opportunity to visit and get to know USC a little bit.”
Since his time at UNC, Crisp has maintained a strong relationship with Folt. In late May, Folt invited Crisp to visit USC to help her think of ways to engage with student life at USC, meeting with several student leaders on campus including Undergraduate Student President Trenton Stone.
“The truth of the matter is, I fell in love,” Crisp said. “… And that led to continued talks with President Folt about whether or not I might be interested in learning more.”
Crisp places USC is in a unique position, citing its resemblance to a public university in its commitment to access for students from all backgrounds.
With Folt as president, Crisp believes there will be a strong commitment to creating a community in an environment that will be more conducive to student development.
“Every single student that comes to campus, without regard to what adjective you put in front of them, is supposed to have the same opportunity to dream and to figure it all out, and to pursue their dreams in life as every single one of us does,” Crisp said. “And that’s what I’m dedicated to, is helping to figure out how best to create a community that allows people to do that.”
According to Folt’s announcement, Crisp was known for his close relationship with students, providing pizza during study breaks and garnering a following among students on his Twitter account, @ViceCrispy.
Crisp credits his experiences as a first-generation black student with how he tends to feel about and address gaps within student life. He plans to create an inclusive and diverse community by meeting students, learning about their challenges at USC and then working with Student Affairs to give students the necessary support to work through them.
“There’s so much transition, and there’s so much that you need to learn, and you feel like a fish out of water at times,” Crisp said. “I think every student experiences that on some level, but I think that first-generation students, who do not have mentoring within a knowledgeable world of higher education, have extra challenges.”
Along with centering his attention on diversity, inclusion and access at UNC, Crisp primarily focused on student health and safety, both in terms of personal safety and group safety, including Title IX, alcohol and substance abuse and interpersonal relationships.
“If a student is not healthy and not well, they’re not ultimately going to be able to do all of the things that they’re there to do, that they’re hoping to do,” Crisp said.
In his role as vice president, Crisp looks forward to learning more about the student life at USC, hoping that his experience and skills will be a good addition to what he says is already a tremendous community.
“I don’t pretend that I understand the community the way that it needs to be understood, so more than anything, I’m excited about the opportunity to roll up my sleeves and to get out there and start meeting people and really learning from you all how best I can help and how best I can fit into the community,” Crisp said.