Updated: Nov 24, 2020
After almost 32 years of working at Salisbury University, Dr. Lawanda Dockins-Mills is retiring. Dockins-Mills is the associate dean of students for Student Affairs, the vice chair of Town-Gown Council, the co-chair of Neighborhood Relations and the chair of Neighborhood Compact. She also oversees Sophomore Year Experience, Off-Campus Housing Services, Neighborhood Relations Office, Technical and Event Services and is the director of the Guerrieri Student Union.
Dockins-Mills is an alumna from Salisbury University, graduating with her bachelor’s degree in communication arts with a concentration in broadcast journalism in 1982. She then went on to earn her master’s degree from SU in 1996. Dockins-Mills went on to work at the university and is coming up on 32 years of work at SU, this coming February.
“When I was an undergraduate student at Salisbury, there was a promise of [a] student union … our student center was a little gold tin building. That was it. It did have a very small bookstore, snack bar, lounge … when this [current] building, the Guerrieri Student Union, was getting ready to open … in 1988, I applied and was a successful candidate hired as the assistant director for operations of the Guerrieri Student Union. That’s how I started here [at the university],” Dockins-Mills said.
Throughout her time at Salisbury University, the contributions that Dockins-Mills has made and the initiatives that she has started are numerous.
“Dockins-Mills’ legacy includes the phenomenal growth of the SU Guerrieri Student Union, co-creating the origins of SU’s Powerful Connections student retention program, spearheading the recent university census effort, leading the Sophomore Year Experience, creating welcoming spaces for commuter students and building strong relationships between the university and community residents and landlords,” Dr. Wallace Southerland III, the associate vice president for Student Affairs, stated.
In looking at her retirement, Dockins-Mills doesn’t have a definite plan for what she will do but is sure to stay busy and continue to make a difference in her community.
“I’m keeping my options open. I still feel like I have a lot to contribute … making the decision to retire came with a lot of mixed emotions … because I’m not retiring as most people think of it. I still have much to do, and so I have some dreams and aspirations, and so I am going to be exploring some of those things,” Dockins-Mills said.
Dockins-Mills also plans to continue to be a presence in the Salisbury University community.
“I will still be connected, already I’ve been asked to do some things at the university, and so I will continue hopefully doing some other things still connected to my alma mater,” said Dockins-Mills.
Throughout her time here at SU, it is clear that Dockins-Mills had a passion for her job and thoroughly enjoyed it.
“There is much that I have loved about my work at the university, and that is why it has been so difficult for me as I think about this transition in many ways, because I still love what I do. I love interacting with students first and foremost; I love interacting with the community … I love what I do,” said Dockins-Mills.
According to Dockins-Mills, while she loved working with everyone from the community, her largest focus was on the students and her ability to make a difference in their lives.
“It’s those things that don’t even appear on your job description or your resume. It’s those types of opportunities and interactions that I’ve had with students over the years that have made a difference in their lives. That is the meat of it for me,” said Dockins-Mills.
Throughout her time at SU, Dockins-Mills maintained an open-door policy for students, in which she always allowed students to talk with her. She even allowed for her staff to interrupt her in a meeting, if it appeared that the student needed her. By doing so, Dockins-Mills was able to form a multitude of relationships with students, who continue to visit her even after they graduated.
“Can I solve every problem? No. But I am going to give you as much information and as much support as I could over the years … and that will probably be the primary piece that I am going to miss … I’m [also] going to miss Homecoming weekend, because over 32 years, I have built so many relationships with students over the years. When they come back for Homecoming … you’re guaranteed that students are going to stop in and say hello,” said Dockins-Mills.
While Dockins-Mills is aware that retirement is the right next step in her life, she emphasized how much she will miss her job at SU, the students, faculty and overall community.
“I’m going to miss Salisbury University, the students, the staff and faculty here that I have had the opportunity to work with, and I am also going miss the community and all of the relationships that I’ve had the opportunity to form … but I’m definitely going to miss the students the most,” said Dockins-Mills.
Those who have had the opportunity to work with Dockins-Mills also are saddened by her retirement but are confident that her legacy and all that she has done for the university will live on.
“Her retirement will truly be a loss for the university, but her legacies remain intact, especially in the hearts of so many people she has touched with her kindness. I am so honored to call her [a] colleague and friend,” said Wallace.
The University will miss Dockins-Mills and will be sure to take active measures to continue her revolutionary legacy.
By LAURA AMRHEIN
Photo credit: Dr. Dockins-Mills.