Each and every day, our client managers across the globe help make our clients' day-to-day just a little bit easier so that they can better support their students. With a client support team that comes from across the student success spectrum, clients continuously speak to the dedication of our client support team, and we at Symplicity want to give them the attention they deserve.
In our series, Symplicity Spotlight, we’re pulling back the curtain on our client support team.
In our latest installment, we are getting to know Dennis Kerwin, Symplicity's Advocate Client Manager. Dennis joined Symplicity in 2023 after being a beloved client during his time at William & Mary. We liked him so much, we recruited him to join the Symplicity team! Dennis brings his enthusiasm and knowledge of the Advocate space to his work with both clients and the Symplicity team. Get to know Dennis below:
Before you joined Symplicity, what was your role in higher ed and what topics are you most passionate about?
My higher education journey started in resident life, first as a Resident Mentor at the University of South Carolina, to a Graduate Hall Director at Eastern Michigan University, to a full time Hall Director at Virginia Commonwealth University. I then transitioned to working with the Dean of Students Office at William & Mary where I served as the Assistant Director of Academic Wellbeing. In that role I worked primarily with System Management – triaging Care Reports and Incident Reports including supporting students dealing with these incidents. I also oversaw the William & Mary TutorZone, a peer tutoring center where I oversaw over 120 student employees. I’m passionate about student access and support, especially in times of crisis. I am also passionate about student employment and engagement especially in preparation for the workforce beyond the university experience.
What got you interested in higher education?
While I really enjoyed being a resident mentor my thought was to always go to law school and become a lawyer. When I learned it was yet another standardized test to get into the kind of law school I wanted to go to, I was afraid. A mentor of mine encouraged me to take a summer internship through ACUHOI, and after an awesome summer at Brown University I came back with the thoughts of working in Student Affairs and the rest is history.
What made you join Symplicity and look into education technology?
COVID-19 really peaked my interest of education technology. With most people working from home, students working from home, and technology really being at the core of our work, I got invested in efficiency. As the primary system manager of Advocate and Accommodate while at William & Mary, I began working on efficiencies of our systems to ease communication with our students and each other. I really dove into the idea of how can we make the system work for us, rather than us work for the system. After doing a major refresh of William & Mary’s Advocate system and beginning to make some major updates to the Accommodate system, I truly gained a passion for breaking down the barriers that often stopped us from doing effective work -- breaking ineffective forms of communication. Seeing how that changed so much of the work we did and how it made things work better overall, made me more interested in helping others with that barrier.
How does your previous work in higher ed help you support clients?
It is truly pivotal. I know what it’s like to work, move in, and turn around to a large batch of conduct incident reports. I know what its like to work the first six weeks where some students struggle with mental health concerns. I know what it’s like to have someone asking for reports immediately and needing to be able to get information quickly. By being a former practitioner, I am able to support others in building a system that supports students and the work they do. Keeping that practitioner lens at the forefront of my mind has been helpful in coming up with meaningful solutions that click for my clients, always brings me joy.
In your view, what are some of the biggest changes student success roles in higher ed have faced the last five years?
COVID taught us a lot, and it taught us the importance of being able to effectively communicate, especially if we are not even in the same room. We’ve learned that we need to meet students where they are and have the technology available to meet virtually, because we did it for over a year. We have had to adapt the way in which we do things to ensure our students are not just receiving information, but acting on it, at their speed, in their own way.
What’s the biggest pain points for clients and professionals focused on student conduct/residential life/ student success today?
There is only “eight” hours in a workday and 24 hours in a day. The work never ends and continues to grow with new unique challenges, and ensuring that we are serving our students in an effective, efficient, and fair way.
Tell us a story of a client’s struggle that you helped them solve with Advocate.
Recently, I met with an incredible professional who told me that she needed a functioning option to manage Title IX complains for their university and I was able to advocate for her to move to the Title IX Module and implement it to a functioning standpoint by the beginning of the school year. Seeing a system go from 0 to 100 in a few months through strong partnership and working together.
What’s your favorite feature within Advocate and why?
My favorite feature is the one that I honestly think people underuse the most: The Thirdrd Party Notification feature. Being able to have someone put a note in a case or upload files directly into it, rather than having to play email tag, is super effective.
What is one thing you would tell someone considering ADV?
Ask questions and put any preconceived notions aside. So often we, as student affairs professionals, just use the systems our predecessors like, or what we’ve been told to like. But when we see that Advocate can really mold into what is needed for the client it is an incredibly powerful tool that more institutions should be investing into.
Outside of work, what do you enjoy doing? Tell us a little about yourself!
I live for my three year old mixed breed dog, Reggie who has a slight vision disability. He runs my house and I just pay the bills. I am an avid escape room enthusiast and have planned vacations around being able to do escape rooms. I even have a magnifying glass tattooed on my wrist! I am also a lover of any board or card game and am super competitive in any of them.
To learn more about Symplicity and how our expert team can support you and your institution, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.