NEWPORT, R.I. – Gerald L. Willis of Middletown, associate dean of students at Salve Regina, has been named the winner of the Association of Student Conduct Administration’s 2011 Donald D. Gehring Award.
The Gehring Award, named for the national organization’s founder, recognizes Willis for exceptional individual contributions he’s made in the field of conduct administration through program presentations, leadership, new innovations and research. Willis was also cited for his service as a mentor and positive role model for other professionals in the field.
“I am honored to receive this award, named for the man from whom we have all learned so much in our profession,” Willis said. “I’ve received tremendous support from the community – particularly from Councilman Justin McLaughlin and Community Police Officer Kevin Parsonage. The past several mayors have been very supportive as well, as have the Middletown Police.”
Over the last decade, Willis has created multi-faceted initiatives to improve university relations with Aqudineck Island municipalities and its residents by educating students about the importance of being good neighbors.
In 2000, he created the Rhode Island Town/Gown Partnership (RITGP), a statewide initiative that encourages open discussion on many of the town/gown issues and problems faced by all the colleges in the state. The membership includes college administrators, Substance Abuse Task Force directors, state agencies, the law enforcement community, neighborhood associations, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and others.
Strategies have been developed to help community residents voice their complaints more efficiently, and a follow-up protocol has been instituted by which the police and a university dean visit every residence within a short time of a complaint.
In the decade since developing the RITGP initiative, Willis and local police have reported a 55 percent reduction in the number of complaints levied by residents. Similar reductions have been realized in the number of police interactions with students, fines and arrests. The success of this initiative has served as a model for other institutions interested in addressing student behavior off campus, such as neighborhood disruptions, party houses, and misrepresentation of age to gain access to alcohol.
“The Newport Police Department and Salve Regina University share a long-standing partnership that has served the community and university well,” said the city’s Police Chief Mike McKenna. “The combined resources of Dr. Willis and the police department have contributed to success in the reduction of student related problems. These initiatives further the goal of keeping the students and community residents safe and secure.”
Salve Regina has more than 700 students who live off campus,” Willis said, and helping them to be good neighbors and members of the community is critical to the university's efforts. “So many of our students are good neighbors, doing many good things in the community,” he said. “And each year a new class of students moves off campus for the first time, so our educational efforts are ongoing.”
Newport Community Police Officer Kevin Parsonage said the relationship between Salve Regina and city police has yielded better results than he’s ever seen in his career.
“The message we have been delivering for all these years is undoubtedly one of the best prevention approaches to crime reduction and a better quality of life for all Newport residents and Salve Regina University students,” Parsonage said. “A congratulations to Dr. Willis Gerry is well deserved for the potential lives that have been saved thanks to his efforts.”
Today, the Association of Student Conduct Administration has more than 1,600 members in the United States, Canada and internationally, representing more than 700 institutions of higher education.