Meet the Experts: Doug Hallenbeck
Dr. Doug Hallenbeck is in his third year as senior associate vice president within the Division of Student Affairs. Hallenbeck chairs the university’s Crisis Management Team and oversees several arms of Clemson’s division: Campus Activities & Events, Campus Recreation, Housing & Dining, Student Health Services and TigerOne Card Services.
Hallenbeck first came to Clemson in October 2007 as the executive director of university housing. He later absorbed dining services and became associate vice president for Student Affairs in 2012. Hallenbeck followed in the footsteps of his father, Dan, longtime housing director at the University of Georgia and president of the Association of College and University Housing Officers – International (ACUHO-I) in 1989.
We recently caught up with Hallenbeck to discuss his family influence, educational background and previous experiences in the world of Student Affairs.
Q: You’re a second-generation professional in student affairs — was that always a career goal?
Hallenbeck: It really wasn’t that much of a thought, to be honest. My dad was the director of housing at the University of Georgia for most of my life growing up. He later became an associate vice president. But, I was a psychology major (at Georgia College). I thought I might want to be a coach at one point. But then I was injured as a senior in high school, and didn’t do much past that. When I was a college senior, I realized I didn’t want to be a counselor. I was involved in campus life as a resident assistant (RA), as a member of student organizations and as a cheerleader. My dad said, ‘Why don’t you think about student affairs?’ He’s always been one of my heroes; I always wanted to be like him. So, it made sense to continue in that path. I didn’t really fully appreciate who he was professionally until I got into the field. He was a former president of ACUHO-I at one point and was well-connected within the industry.
Q: How did your educational background and related undergraduate experience prepare you for entry into the student affairs profession?
Hallenbeck: Because my dad was the director of housing at Georgia, he got me jobs every summer painting residence halls from the time I was 16 until I graduated college. I developed some very strong relationships and friendships. One of the best friends and mentors I was fortunate to know, before he passed, was the building supervisor who oversaw maintenance for the Oglethorpe House at the University of Georgia. I worked in that environment in terms of day-to-day operations and gained an appreciation for that. I became engaged as an RA. The psychology degree was a good one, and helped me in a lot of different directions. Understanding the way the mind works and how people react fits into student development. For me, it was a good evolution. I was then a hall director at Mississippi State, where my academic coursework went hand in hand with the experience. The ability to be a director of housing at SMU, at the age of 32, stemmed from my understanding of the operations and maintenance side, as well as the student development experience, which is more of the residential life side.
Q: How much did previous stops play a role in your career development?
Hallenbeck: I went from Mississippi State to the University of Florida, where I had the chance to work several rungs under Jim Grimm. He’s since passed, but was the longtime director at Florida and known as a legend in the housing world. Even though I was in an entry-level position, I was able to sit around the table at staff meetings along with everyone else. It was a neat experience because he had a lot of wisdom. It broadened my sense of how such a large organization, like the one at Florida, operated. Kathy Hobgood (Clemson’s current executive director of housing & dining) and I worked together at Florida my last year; we were both residence directors at the same time. Then, I went to Oklahoma State as an area coordinator. After two years, I was promoted to assistant director and half of my concerns dealt with housing, and half with dining. We were self-operational, meaning we did all of the hiring, menu preparation, supply ordering. I supervised dining managers, dining halls, convenience stores and a pizza place. It’s also where I earned my doctorate degree. It broadened my understanding of the marriage between housing and dining. When I came to Clemson, later in my career, we had the opportunity after four or five years to add dining, and my experience allowed us to make the case we would be able to do it well. At SMU, I became the director of housing. When you’re in charge, it’s much different. My very first staff meeting, we had two sides — programming and operations — arguing about something that needed to be done. Then they just stopped and looked at me. And I realized, ‘Oh man, I need to make this decision!’ We had about 2,000 beds and had apartments and fraternity houses. I reported directly to the vice president at the time, Jim Caswell. He had been at SMU for almost 50 years at that point. That was a great mentorship opportunity. A little over 10 years ago, I earned the opportunity to come to Clemson as the executive director of housing.
Q: As you reflect back on your time at Clemson, what are you most proud of?
Hallenbeck: They had hired a consultant to do a housing master plan. I came on board to help shepherd the master plan. As we look around and see Core Campus and Douthit Hills — things discussed when I first got here, albeit in a much different fashion than we discussed — that certainly sticks out. We were able to spend a lot of financial stewardship back into the buildings. We were on a budget crunch when I first got here in October 2007. The first decision I made was to remove all phone lines starting in January of the next year, so we wouldn’t have to pay for them since 90 percent of students weren’t using them. That was just to make our budget balance. From then, we tell the story that we were able to put many millions of dollars in terms of stewardship into our current buildings. We transformed the Shoeboxes and did important work in residential areas such as the high rises and Calhoun Courts. For me, it’s been the balance of doing all of that while expanding our residential life program. We expanded our living-learning communities. They brought me here to do something, and I think we were able to and still continue to work through the master plan.
Q: How did your position evolve to the point where you took on additional administrative responsibility within the Division of Student Affairs?
Hallenbeck: As the director of housing, you’re involved in every aspect of the organization, from operations to finances to programming. As things evolved and through several retirements, including Joy Smith (former associate vice president and dean of students) and Verna Howell (former associate vice president and director of housing), coupled with the absorption of dining, I was promoted to associate vice president. I also had oversight of parking and transportation services for a period of time. When Almeda Jacks came on board in 2015, it was a natural fit to be able to gain some different experiences in this role. I like to think people are pretty happy with what we’ve been able to accomplish.
Q: The divisional realignment shifted many responsibilities. What was it like to absorb some areas that were not as familiar to you?
Hallenbeck: I had a steep learning curve and continue to do so with Student Health Services. I had a little bit of a learning curve with Campus Recreation. Part of it was taking the time to learn those operations, and not act like any kind of expert. I allowed them to educate me on what I needed to know and where they needed help. When I wanted something done in university housing, I simply made the call. Now it’s Kathy’s job. My position is much more an advisory role, and I very much enjoy it and wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Q: How would you evaluate the current state of Student Affairs at Clemson?
Hallenbeck: We’re in an exciting time, as we look at the value we bring to the student experience. But we’re also tackling some very serious issues from a university standpoint and national environment. How do we help students deal with mental health and overall well-being? How are we helping students develop lifelong skills and habits that we know are important? Nutrition. Exercise. Sleep patterns. How do we help them interact with other people and engage in an ever-changing society? Leadership is certainly important. Everything we do is always focused on that throughout our division. How do we take the pieces we know impact a student’s health and well-being and integrate what we’re doing across departmental lines? We’re in a unique position to tie the classroom experience with the framework we can provide, whether it’s leadership, inclusive excellence or wellness.
Q: What activities do you enjoy outside of work?
Hallenbeck: The most important thing in my life are my three kids. My oldest daughter, Sydney, is in the Ph.D. program in chemistry at the University of Georgia. My youngest daughter, Ainsley, is a junior at Flagler College in Saint Augustine, Florida. She’s an RA and wants to go into student affairs and housing. She’s a psychology major. She’s red-headed like me. To be three generations into it and see it unfold through her lens has been neat. My son, McKinley, is 16 and is at Daniel High School. I’ve coached his basketball and baseball teams for years. It’s been neat watching him grow. I’ve run four marathons since I turned 40. My first and fastest was in Ocala, Florida when I was 42. My most recent was in Charleston five weeks ago. I started running in my late 20s or early 30s and made it a goal to run a half-marathon. Then, I figured I’d be able to run a marathon and I’ve been fortunate to complete four of them now. When I was in college, I taught myself to play guitar. I’m a big John Denver and Jimmy Buffett fan. I like Chris Stapleton and Eric Church these days. I’m not good like Jennifer Goree (director of Healthy Campus), but I can entertain myself.