Strolls past the folding tables that pop up outside the Davidson Library at UC Santa Barbara don’t happen as often these days, but, when they do, Michael Young makes a point of glancing at the faces of as many college students as he can.
Student organizations are always mobbing the Arbor or the front lawn of the Student Resources Center for campus causes, and Young is somehow fueled by their call to action, compelled to take notice as UCSB’s longtime vice chancellor for student affairs.
“I find that energizing,” Young said on a recent morning, recalling a 25-year career on the eve of retirement. “Every one of these young people is somebody’s baby. They’re not just students.
“The downside of this job is you lose some.”
The realization reminds Young, 67, of his responsibility to take on a sort of parental role when young adults are away at college.
Not surprisingly, the veteran administrator has earned a nickname as “Santa Barbara dad,” lending a helpful ear or advice to students and staff who seek his counsel.
Truthfully, Young said he views student leaders as his colleagues — making retiring at the end of January all the more bittersweet.
“I’ve been lucky,” he said, sitting inside his corner office on the fifth floor of Cheadle Hall. “I wish I could take this view with me. (But) it feels like time.”
The Chicago native said he’s been blessed with superb colleagues from the 25 departments within his Student Affairs purview, and thousands of extraordinary students he has made a point of talking to directly, respectfully, clearly and honestly.
Young’s division handles admissions, financial aid, career services, student health and a wealth of other nonacademic programs essential to any college tenure.
He said he thinks he’s leaving a solid foundation for a successor, who will be chosen with help from a search firm long after Young heads into a retirement that will feature travel with his wife, a host of improvement projects on his Santa Barbara home and more.
In a talk with Noozhawk, “blessed” was a word Young often used, especially since he kind of fell into his job after college graduation. School administrator wasn’t on the radar until Young went back to his alma mater — Wisconsin’s Beloit College — as a counselor.
Once the revelation came about, and Young had his doctorate, he became the associate dean of college and registrar at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn.
Eleven years later, Young ventured to UCSB in 1990 with his family of four — he has two grown children who still reside in California — and began instilling a lasting culture bolstered today by his friendly, playful sense of humor.
“Back then, I knew it was time to leave, too,” he said. “In the early days, it was much more important that I be hands-on. It’s the same job title (now), but it’s a different job. It’s still wonderful.”
Young has taken a step back from daily problem-solver to focus more on the big picture as a sounding board, department go-between and finder of resources.
He said he was particularly proud of his division after the May 2014 Isla Vista massacre, with everyone across campus offering assistance or counseling.
“I really felt proud to be a Gaucho,” Young said. “At our darkest moment, we achieved some of our greatest triumphs. We’re a team. We’ve hung together as a family through some very difficult times. I’m proud of our relationship with students.”
Young wasn’t sure he deserved all the love he’s received from campus colleagues since his retirement plans got out, but the seasoned administrator seemed certain that Student Affairs would maintain its important connection with the young people the division serves.