If you ask Assistant Dean of Students Dayna Coleman Jones what she’s most proud of in the 30-plus years she’s worked at Whitworth, she’ll point to the dozens of photos covering her office door. There are no words to sum up the breadth of the relationships she’s formed with students and staff in the years since she arrived at Whitworth in 1983 as a housing director.
Jones work across the three decades has been rich and varied within the framework of student life: from managing housing shortages and resolving issues with rowdy residents as the housing director living in Warren and Baldwin-Jenkins halls – which she calls “the apex of the sound cone” – to serving as director of student activities, where she upheld student traditions and campus identity and worked to provide a blueprint for the student leaders who build community in their elected positions. She’s played an important role in nearly every activity and event that emanates from the Hixson Union Building, from the campus radio station to Springfest, from Orientation Weekend to resident-assistant training. Jones has even written several columns for The Whitworthian.
“She is one of the best student-development professionals in higher education,” said Nicole Boymook, assistant dean of off-campus students and student success. “Dayna always gives students a lot of responsibility, because she knows that they are capable of changing the world. She allows students to make mistakes and then is there to help them to reflect and grow from the experience. She knows that some of the best learning happens through the harder times.”
Daniel Clapp, ’00, a former Whitworth student-executive who has followed a similar career path to Jones’ at Westmont College, in Santa Barbara, Calif., said Jones showed students the difference between “the spirit of the law and the letter of the law.” He said, “I regularly think, ‘What would Dayna do?’ when I’m in uncharted territory,” and he quoted Jones as saying, on occasion, “Be a duck. Let the water roll off your back. That’s all anyone sees. What they don’t see is how furiously you’re paddling beneath the surface.”
Jones guides students in leading among their peers and in building meaningful experiences that will inform the lives they lead after Whitworth. Pointing to the impact students have had over the years in bringing change to Whitworth – such as the establishment of Fall Break and the construction of the rec center – she said that when students realize they can make a difference, big or small, it becomes contagious. “They can go out with that experience and do the same thing in their communities after they graduate,” she said.
Former ASWU president Molly Hough, ’13, said of Jones, “She has an incredible ability to relate to the students she is working with, making them feel that they are valued and respected, which is why she is one of the most respected administrators on campus. She defines what it means to be a woman who lives out the mission of Whitworth through loving people holistically.”