Dr. Troy Seppelt Talks Sexual Misconduct Prevention for Faculty & Staff

Dr. Troy Seppelt is the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Dean of Students at University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, where he’s been for the past eight years. Dr. Seppelt plays a critical role in providing leadership and oversight to essential university services and programs, including the campus’s Counseling Center, Student Health Service, and the Center for Prevention. He also serves as a Deputy Title IX Coordinator, leads campus interpersonal violence prevention efforts, and chairs the institution’s threat assessment process.

Dr. Seppelt has been working professionally in higher education — both public and private institutions — since 1999. We’re honored that he shared his expertise and collaborated with our team as a subject matter expert on the creation of our new program, Sexual Misconduct Prevention for Faculty & Staff.

Dr. Seppelt candidly answered our questions that shed light on today’s campus climate, the importance of sexual misconduct training for faculty and staff, and his contributions and thoughts about the new prevention program.

How has the climate changed on campus in terms of sexual misconduct prevention? What role do faculty and staff play?

“Prior to 2014, I think institutions understood that interpersonal violence happened on college campuses, but at least in the places that I had worked, it was not very prominent in terms of the need to report, share resources, and care for students or employees. Prior to 2014 there was no training or support that I recall at the institutions where I worked.

I think 2014 [when the Obama administration’s influential “Dear Colleague” letter was unveiled] helped us understand more specifically and more directly our responsibility for supporting students and colleagues in prevention efforts. And then how to ensure that everyone understands not only how to report, but why it’s important to report.”

Why is it just as important for faculty & staff to receive sexual misconduct training as it is for students?

“All college campuses are a reflection of society, and we know that issues of interpersonal violence and the impact of our upbringing and how we view other humans accompanies each of us when we come to campus. It’s not only, ‘Hello student, you are young and have things to learn.’ It’s the parallel emission for our staff. It’s, ‘Hello. We are employees, faculty and staff of an institution and we should continue to understand that we have things to learn and how to teach well in the classroom, how to program well, and engage students as they change and grow.’

Of course, for this topic we should always renew our skills. We should refresh our knowledge about the topic so we can care for our fellow humans most effectively. As faculty and staff, we can influence the campus’s culture. In this space, everyone needs to be on board.

If we’re talking about prevention: How do we become visible and have a strong voice about saying what is not OK — not only for our campus, but for our broader communities? We can do that alongside students. That’s why I always appreciate being loud about the need for faculty and staff to learn, grow, and develop skills in this area.”

How do the scenarios in Kognito’s simulation relate to possible real-life occurrences?

“They’re real because I’ve seen similar incidents and they exist on our campuses across the country.

As someone who’s been in the profession for more than 20 years, these things have been shared with me; conversations that have gone well (from a student’s perspective) with a faculty or staff member, and conversations that have gone poorly from a student’s perspective.

[In the Kognito simulation], we really wanted to deliver items that were real and that we have seen in our communities.”

What skills are being taught in this simulation? How are these important in instances of sexual misconduct?

“The idea that we need to pause, slow down and listen for not only what is being said, but what is not being said … to recognize the level of comfort in the student (or lack thereof). To slow down and listen to the human; the person that we’re trying to support and trying to understand.

For faculty and staff, it’s also about helping them understand that there are resources. Do you know where to find them and how to find them at your institution? To have that base knowledge can only help them better help their students or colleagues.”

In your opinion, why is this product more effective than others on the market?

“Well, as you might imagine, I’ve seen a few [similar products]. The part that’s unique [about Kognito] is that it fills the niche of ‘I’m going to try it.’ I get to make a mistake. I get to back up in the scenario. I get to try again and understand why one option that I offer to the student or one thing that I said to the student as part of the training didn’t work or is less effective.

The knowledge that I can gain and have at my fingertips with Kognito is actually more effective at not only supporting the human in the moment, but also connecting them to what is next. If that’s reporting, great. If that’s a confidential resource, great. If that’s an ‘I’m just going to hold on to it now. But thank you for your care and support,’ great.

A part of Kognito that is super different is the ability to try things on and see how they fit for me as an individual in my interactions with colleagues and students. I appreciate that Kognito gives you the opportunity to back up, try again, and learn from all of that experience. “

We thank Dr. Troy Seppelt for his contributions to Sexual Misconduct Prevention for Faculty & Staff, and for sharing his perspective during our conversation.

Want to learn more about Kognito’s new, interactive prevention solution? Head to kognito.com to learn more, or better yet, try an interactive demo to experience the power of role-play conversations with virtual humans.

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