The University of Louisiana at Lafayette announced Friday that it has named Patricia Frilot Cottonham as vice president for Student Affairs.
Her appointment is subject to approval by the Board of Supervisors of the University of Louisiana System.
Cottonham has been interim vice president for Student Affairs since 2012 and interim dean of students since 2009.
“She is well qualified to continue to lead this vital component of the University,” said UL Lafayette President Dr. Joseph Savoie. “Her professional experience is broad and she has earned a reputation for her concern for students. Commitment to students’ academic success and providing a meaningful college experience are hallmarks of our University, thanks to leaders like her.”
In her application letter, Cottonham noted that UL Lafayette “has been part of my life for nearly 40 years. As an undergraduate in the 1970s, the years were filled with leadership opportunities, life-changing experiences, lifelong memories and most importantly, I earned a valuable degree…”
She worked as a speech therapist in Opelousas for five years after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in speech pathology and audiology. In 1984, she was hired by the University as a financial aid counselor. “It was in that position that I realized that I truly enjoyed working with students,” she wrote.
Cottonham was promoted from counselor to director of the Financial Aid Office. She implemented a Counselor on Duty program that enabled counselors to answer all phone calls the Financial Aid Office received and to provide accurate information to callers about their financial aid accounts.
In 1998, she became associate dean of students and director of Greek Life. She had direct oversight of over 150 student organizations, including 20 nationally recognized sororities and fraternities.
As associate dean, Cottonham revamped and enhanced the University’s parent orientation program and helped attract national speakers to campus to talk to students about issues such as alcohol awareness, acquaintance rape, body image and bullying.
“I worked to ensure that the Dean of Students Office was seen as a place of support and service for students and faculty. I was an active participant in retention efforts on campus, including serving on numerous committees and task forces that addressed issues affecting retention and graduation rates,” she stated.
After Cottonham was named interim dean of students in 2009, she supervised several departments and assumed the duties of a Title IX investigator “alongside the Title IX compliance officer.”
As interim vice president for Student Affairs, Cottonham supervised the departments of Housing, Recreational Sports, Counseling and Testing, and Student Health Services, as well as University Police, the Child Development Center, Student Union, Career Services, Career Counseling, Disability Services, Student Life and Conduct, Student Engagement and Leadership, Student Publications, and the Office of International Affairs.
“I have worked with first-generation, adult and veteran student populations. I am confident in the relationships I have built with the departments of Academic Affairs and Enrollment Management, ensuring partnerships that lead to student engagement, retention, success and happiness.
“I understand the mission of the University and its plans for the future. I am committed to diversity and providing the best possible experience for each and every student,” she stated.
Cottonham has had a leadership role in the recent addition and renovation of residence halls; about 3,000 students now live on campus.
She has also been involved with the expansion and renovation of the Student Union. That facility is expected to be complete in December of this year.
“I feel fortunate to have a career that centers around students who come to us with their abilities and their dreams,” Cottonham said in her letter of application.
She holds a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling education and expects to earn a doctorate in higher education leadership in December 2015.
Cottonham was chosen after a nationwide search conducted by a committee composed of University faculty and staff members, undergraduate and graduate students, student organization leaders and advisors, alumni and parents.