Laurie Bellows, interim vice chancellor of student affairs, said she cannot “fill the shoes” of her predecessor, Juan Franco, and does not plan to either.
Bellows took the job after Franco announced he would be stepping down from his role as vice chancellor of student affairs to join the faculty staff. It was only after she began her new position that Franco passed away.
However, Bellows wants to continue his projects and strengthen them, as she believes this is all she can do.
“Looking at the things that he started … those were his legacy, and we want to see those things grow and be stronger,” she said. “That’s about all I can do. I just want to help with the initiatives that he believed in and he cared about and make sure that those don’t get lost or go away.”
Franco passed away on Tuesday, Aug. 1, in Houston, Texas, after complications from surgery, exactly one month after Bellows began her job. Before his death, Franco served the University of Nebraska-Lincoln community in a variety of ways and was a mentor to many people. He had a reputation of putting students first and being an understanding leader.
Although she didn’t know Franco very well, Bellows said it wasn’t hard to know him because of his well-known reputation on campus.
“He was somebody that I could go to and visit with about student direction, student development ... He was just really generous with his time,” she said. “Students were his primary focus, his great love, and in fact, one of things that we’re trying to do to follow that is use the tagline: students first. That’s what he did, [and] he connected with the students so well.”
According to Bellows, UNL will begin looking for a permanent vice chancellor of student affairs in fall 2018. A more permanent vice chancellor will be hired in fall 2019. In the meantime, Bellows will continue to fulfill the duties in her job.
“[I ask] where are the gaps — where are we not filling students needs on campus?” she said. “[It’s] my job to figure that out with the goal that when we are ready to find a permanent position, the office will be ready to bring in some exciting, young, new professional in to move it forward. I’m basically here to set the stage and then go out and recruit someone that’s really dynamic.”
During her time as interim vice chancellor, Bellows said she has many goals to help the UNL community and is excited for the future. Although he has known her for a short time, Association of Students of the University of Nebraska President Joe Zach believes the year will be successful.
“It has been really nice so far,” he said. “She has done a really great job, in my opinion, of reaching out to all directors under student affairs and get their thoughts on how things have worked in the past and what can be improved on. She also brings in a new look on things to continue the success of student affairs.”
According to student testimony, Franco left a significant impact on both the campus and its students, and many are excited to see his work carry on through others.
“I think [Franco] did such a great job with the university and for students that the folks that are still are going to continue on his work,” Zach said. “I think students should be excited for the next year.”