Laura Hannon: Q&A with New Executive Director of Student Affairs for AAP
Laura Hannon joined Johns Hopkins University this fall as executive director of Student Affairs for Advanced Academic Programs. Hannon attended Boston College and then worked at Northeastern and Boston universities.
In her role at AAP, she will work with students at the Montgomery County Campus, as well as students in Washington, D.C.
Q. What is your position at Johns Hopkins? What will you be doing day to day to help students, faculty and staff?
My position is a new one for Advanced Academic Programs. My primary focus is the student experience; students choose a graduate program at Hopkins for myriad reasons and I want to understand what those reasons are and how we can support each student. I lead student and career services and I seek to partner with faculty and staff to deliver services and resources that will support student success and help our students move them towards their goals. Seeing students return to the classroom to pursue a graduate degree so they can add value to their lives (personally, professionally, etc.) is inspiring to me and I am grateful to be in a position where I can support that pursuit.
Q. How did you get into this line of work, and what did you do before coming to Hopkins?
My first introduction to student and faculty services was as an undergraduate student when I was a work-study student in the Office of Instructional Design and e-Teaching Services and a Resident Assistant with Residence Life at Boston College. Coming from a liberal arts background, I valued working in an environment where learning and the pursuit of knowledge and personal betterment were guiding principles. So, I kept working in education. My first job out of college was as an administrative coordinator for non-credit certificate programs; this role allowed me to do a little bit of everything – admissions, student services, registration, faculty support – and I found my passion was supporting students in their academic careers. I have worked in various roles in higher education supporting adult learners. Most recently I served a diverse student body (full-time working adults, online students, part-time learners, international students) through academic and career advising and student life support. As an advisor, I took a holistic approach to student support: helping students define their aspirations, create a path and support them along the way. This is the lens that I have used to build resources for student success in the past and the attitude that I am bringing to Hopkins. Student affairs is my passion and I am thrilled to be working with the talented learners at AAP!
Q. As you know, many AAP students take courses in Montgomery County. What will you be doing to serve those students? How can they connect with you?
One of my priorities for this role is to build community, both across AAP’s campuses and with the larger Hopkins community. I’d love to hear from MCC students about specific resources that would be beneficial to them. I am available via email and, while my office is in D.C., would be happy to visit Montgomery Country again to speak with students!
Q. When should students seek you out?
My philosophy for student affairs is one of partnership for success. I am here to help our students define their goals and give them the tools to reach them. A big part of that is helping to navigate AAP and JHU resources and policies. If any students are facing impediments to their academic progress, I want them to reach out to me so we can brainstorm solutions. For some, furthering education can be daunting, particularly when there are so many external stressors and responsibilities outside of class. I want AAP students to know they have a partner in Student Affairs who is here to support them.
Q. What is your mission for the position?
One of the reasons I am so excited to be joining AAP is the opportunity to build a Student Affairs department that specifically responds to the unique needs of our students. Because I have an advising background, my approach to student affairs is developmental: where are you trying to go and how can we help you get there? What do you need to grow? My vision is for integrated student and career services that provide meaningful complements to classroom learning, connect students to their educational and professional communities, and help prepare them to take whatever next step they are working towards, be it a career change, a promotion or a new outlook on life.
Q. What do you see as the biggest way you can help students?
By listening to why they are pursuing a program with AAP and how we can help them reach the goal behind that “why.” I have spent my first month assessing student services and talking to students, faculty and staff to understand what the needs are for our population. I want to be a partner for our students and continue to work with them and for them to help optimize their time at Hopkins.