Puma Press

PVCC loses prominent leader, friend


Photo by Shelley Handley
Dr.Sandra Miller Holst, vice president of Student Affairs, said good-bye at her farewell luncheon on Jan. 29.

In the Fall of 2011, Paradise Valley Community College welcomed a new vice president of Student Affairs . Two- and-half years later that administrator, Dr. Sandra Miller Holst, is saying goodbye to the position, to people she cares deeply for, and to students whom she strived to serve.

“This decision (leaving) has been extremely difficult for me; I have wrestled with this for months now,” Holst says . 
She notes that she is leaving because her eyesight is deteriorating and has become a health concern.

Holst has been an educator for over 30 years.  Besides her three adult sons, she says that education is her love, her passion, her life .  Being PVCC’s vice president of Student Affairs, she says, has been rewarding and exhilarating , so leaving has been a challenging and painful process. 

With her vision deteriorating, Holst made the decision that she thought would be best for everyone.  “If I can’t be at my very best, then I can’t stay,” says Holst.  “If I am unable to give 100 percent, then I will be an impediment, and I do not want that. I want PVCC to be a successful college.”

Her role model, Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole, director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art, taught her about recognizing important mile markers.

Holst believes that m ile markers are signs to heed along our path; these signs tell us directions, warn us of dangers, and let us know when to slow down and speed up. Holst isn’t leaving education or retiring, but she is slowing down for a bit . She is heeding the warning of her vision loss.  S he is returning to a familiar home in New York and empowering PVCC to hire someone else who can build another level to an existing foundation that she and others have worked hard to secure.

Holst was born in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in Queens.  She loves New York’s vibrance. “I love the melting pot of ideas …individual cultures and social change,” she said.

Although Holst has enjoyed working in Arizona, New York is home, where family lives.  She feels comfortable there, she says . “ It is a place where I can address health concerns and assess what I will be able to do.”  

Holst ’s hobbies are reading, traveling and shopping.  To help in her transition, Holst’s sons, Damien, Kyle and Romie, have given her gifts. “My sons have a wonderful sense of humor. They gave me a Nook, so I can make the words as big as I need them.  They also gave me a pair of binoculars,”

“I’m not ready to leave education permanently, quite honestly,” Holst says .  She is considering eventually working as adjunct faculty at a community college.  “There is nothing better than making learning fun, exciting and rewarding for students,” she says. “There is nothing better than opening students up to possibilities, a vision of possibilities…helping to build an attitude of ‘ I can.’ ”

Consultant work in higher education is another possibility that Holst says she is considering.

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Holst has a bachelor’s in education with a minor in black studies. S he has a master’s from SUNY Brockport in counseling and student personal services. Her doctorate in educational leadership is from Capella University. .

She has served as a professor and administrator at four higher educational public organizations: T he State University of New York, The Florida C ommunity C ollege system, Dutchess Community College and PVCC.  She is the recipient of The Founder’s Award recognizing exemplary leadership, performance and community building among students with color. Her dissertation has been published as a book: Description: http://cdn.laedo.com/images/space.gif”A Study of the Relationship Between an Intrusive Student Services Model and First Year Retention of Underrepresented At-risk Students.”

Yet Holst says she is proudest of her “magnificent sons and her role in their lives.”  She is grateful for being able to positively make a difference to humanity through them.  As their mother, she says they are “extremely accomplished, great human beings, gentlemen…happy and healthy contributors to humanity in their own rights…and I look forward to being able to spend more time celebrating their lives.”

Holst’s two favorite contributions while working for Maricopa County Community College District  are the completion of PVCC’s Welcome center and Connect-2-College.

Connect 2 College is a video series that MCCCD will publish this s pring.  This media tool will help new students identify educational possibilities and understand what to expect from the college, what the college will expect of them, and how to apply and navigate financial aid.

Holst believes the Welcome Center gives students an incredible introduction to an environment of success.  “Student Affairs is an integral component of the success model at PVCC,” Holst said. Sandy McDill, interim dean of Administrative and Enrollment Services, and others have “changed the face of Student Affairs on this college; we have made a student friendly, student focused experience ...we communicate to students that they can reach their goals, and that is a crucial element of helping them succeed…and, from the first day, students are told information that can empower them to attain their aspirations, their dreams….”

Holst will miss her frontline and advising staff and managers. “They are courageous, sound with convictions and committed to change. They know they are important and have value; they make a difference every day to students’ lives and our community,” says Holst. “They give the best possible level of service.”

Mike Ho, Director of Student Life and Leadership; Greg Silcox, PVCC athletics direc tor; Cranston Forte, M.E.N. program adviser; and Heather Kruse, director of Student Development, are leaders that Holst say she “couldn’t be more proud of…they are highly committed to the success of students.  They embrace change and are intentional in how they develop their programs.”

“I a dmire (PVCC president) Dr. Paul Dale’s ability to understand the theory behind being successful and the importance of ground level as well as 80 ,000- feet level focus.  I believe in his ability to execute the visions and dreams of the college and move PVCC from being a good college to a great one!” Holst said.

“I understand that life happens, and we have to move forward… t he college is expeditiously screening candidates for Holst’s replacement. The goal is to have someone by July 1, 2014,” Dale said.

Cizek and Associates, a national search and assessment firm, has been employed to help screen and seek possible choices. Until Holst is replaced, Herman Gonzales, dean of Administrative Services has accepted an additional role, interim vice president of Student Affairs.