The college student life outside the classroom is incredibly important as it plays a significant role in shaping each individual’s time for self-discovery and personal growth. Dr. Frank Cuevas, vice chancellor for student life at the University of Tennessee, says, “Research tells us that the environment outside of the classroom plays a major role in student retention and persistence. Increased student persistence helps them finish their degree. The goal is for students to complete their education – as you know, education is the greatest equalizer.”
Cuevas is a first-generation college graduate, and he relates to the overwhelming unknowns of tackling a college campus. Dr. Cuevas attended Florida State University for his undergraduate degree, and he credits the robust student life program with settling him into a comfortable campus life. The university’s extracurricular activities, leadership opportunities and student organizations enhanced his leadership skills, communication abilities and provided opportunities for community involvement.
Cuevas also credits his student life experience with changing his career path from a future law student to a career in higher education. Celebrating more than 30 years in the field, he says, “I wanted to create the same experience for other students that I had as a student.”
Dr. Cuevas began his student affairs career at Ohio State University as a residence hall director, returning to FSU in various leadership roles for more than 15 years.
In 2010, Cuevas joined UT as the executive director of University Housing. He currently serves as the vice chancellor for student life and an adjunct assistant professor for the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies.
Listening to him speak about his role at the university is inspiring because passion exudes from this veteran educator. More than once, he emphasized the vision of Student Life at UT to “create opportunities for every student to learn, lead and serve.” He spoke about UT being a flagship, land-grant university and how it is a priority of the university to serve the state of Tennessee by creating pathways for student success. Important life lessons students learn outside the classroom include effective communication and leadership skills, developing independent and healthy relationships, serving in their community and preparing for a career after college.
The Student Life website tells the enormity of his role at the university: “The vice chancellor is the chief student advocate for the campus. This role supports the development, assessment and improvement of campus life and student experiences that meet the university’s mission, priorities and strategic plan. He oversees more than 500 staff members and a division budget of approximately $90 million. Additionally, he manages 3.7 million square feet of facility space that includes on-campus housing, campus recreation, the Student Health Center, the Frieson Black Cultural Center and the Student Union.”
Dr. Cuevas is married to Cathy Cuevas who is a senior lecturer for the College of Communication and Information at UT and is currently teaching public speaking full time. They have two grown children. Their daughter, Alyssa, is a recent college graduate, and their son, Brandon, is a junior enrolled at Florida State University
You may see the Cuevas duo around campus cheering on the Vols or having lunch with students as they take campus life as their daily calling.
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