Graphic by Julia Garrison ’25.

Doug Slovenkay

Contributing Writer

An integral part of a college campus is ensuring the safety of the students who call it home. A significant change is underway, aiming to guarantee the safety of Wooster’s campus for the foreseeable future: the hiring of a new director of campus safety. The search has been narrowed down to four candidates who each visited campus this past week to meet with students and staff alike to discuss what they would bring to the position.

Robin Olson was the first candidate to make an on-campus appearance early last week. Olson currently works as the Director of Public Safety at Ohio Dominican University in Columbus, Ohio. In email correspondence with the student body, Dean Cliff Bobbitt explained Olson’s collaborations with other reaches of the University as the overseer of the university safety committee and the pandemic task force. Olson earned a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice Studies from Kent State University and the Ohio Peace Officers Training Academy Certification from Akron University.

Olson has worked in his current position at Ohio Dominican University for the past eight years. Prior to his time at ODU, he was the Chief of Police at East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania for eight years. He has received numerous endorsements from colleagues, particularly with regards to his aptitude for community outreach and event planning.

Clarella Thomas was the second candidate to appear on campus for student and faculty review. Currently the Chief of Police and Director of Public Safety at Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, she has experience with “establish[ing]strategies and plans to ensure optimal performance in oversight of uniform patrol and investigations…[and] enforced performance standards to keep the team operating effectively.”

Qualified with a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Bethel University and an Executive Master’s of Business Administration Degree from Virginia Union University, Dean Bobbitt noted her experience with authoring and reviewing “department policies relating to best practices and liaised with local, state, and federal regulatory agencies to streamline operations and coordinate response.” 

Thomas’ career in campus safety began more than 20 years ago as a patrol officer at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. She then served as the police captain at the University of Chicago before assuming this same position at Vanderbilt University. She was then briefly the Chief of Police and Director of Campus Safety at her alma mater, Virginia Union University, before moving to her current position at Wellesley College.

“My inspiration was working with students, collaborating across campus with faculty and staff to promote safety initiatives and to help maintain a safe campus environment for all,” she said. During an exclusive interview with Thomas upon her hiring at Wellesley College, she discussed her approach toward being a leader on campus as well as in the community. “I have so much passion for this work. I know it is a calling, not just a job, for me.”

The third candidate was no visitor at all, rather, the current interim director of campus safety, Kevin Cooper. Cooper is responsible for the leadership of Campus Safety and the Campus Access areas of the College, as well as serving as an active member in campus crisis planning and other incidents. According to a correspondence from Dean Bobbitt, Cooper has certifications and training in Introduction to Hate and Bias Crimes and Advanced Topics in Hate and Crime from California State University, Basic College Campus Safety and Security Officer Training from the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission (OPOTC), and various other trainings and certifications. Cooper has over 20 years of campus safety experience, with many of those years being with the College.

The last of the four candidates to appear on campus was James Kendall. Kendall is the Chief of Public Safety at Miami Dade College and holds the responsibility of overseeing public safety and day-to-day functions as well as parking operations. Kendall holds a bachelor’s degree in Finance from Florida International University and a master’s in Business Leadership and Management from the University of Miami. 

Kendall is the campus liaison between law enforcement agencies and Miami Dade concerning safety, security or law enforcement issues. Before assuming his current role at Miami Dade, Kendall was a safety officer at his alma mater, the University of Miami. 

During his brief time on campus, Kendall said that he observed something of a disconnect between the student body and campus safety. While he listed several goals throughout his presentation, he emphasized bridging this gap as one of the most important challenges in which he intends on tackling. Kendall stated that by having social events such as barbecues hosted by campus safety in order to engage with the students, this relationship may be repaired.

Each of the four candidates have unique assets to bring to the table which would certainly be of benefit to the Wooster community as a whole. It will certainly be interesting to see which direction the school eventually opts to go in, although it is promising to see that there are several strong, qualified candidates for them to choose between.

Written by

Doug Slovenkay

Doug is a current freshman at the College of Wooster in the class of 2027