Last January, David Cozzens was visiting Fort Worth for a conference. After meetings on Thursday and Friday, Cozzens, the dean of students at the University of Wyoming at the time, stuck around for the weekend and nosed around town.
He walked the Trinity River, ate his fill of Tex-Mex and even strolled through TCU’s campus. When he got back home to Wyoming a few days later, he mentioned to his wife his fondness for Fort Worth.
“Even though I wasn’t actively looking, I told my wife, ‘You know if anything at TCU came open, I’d be interested,’” Cozzens said.
That opening eventually came.
TCU announced in October that Cozzens would be taking over as the new associate vice chancellor for student affairs. He began in January, replacing Susan Adams, who retired in August.
“Dr. Cozzens will bring a wealth of experience and expertise to his role at TCU. His strong background and leadership in student health and wellness will be assets to our programs and services for students,” said Kathy Cavins-Tull, vice chancellor of student affairs. “I think the TCU community will really enjoy Dr. Cozzen’s ability to connect with students, faculty and staff.”
Cozzens said he applied for the position over the summer, did a Skype interview in late September and spent four days on campus at the beginning of October.
Cavins-Tull said that there were more than 100 applicants for the position.
“What I was really impressed with was how open the campus was with questions,” Cozzens said. “I got to talk with [Chancellor Victor Boschini] for a really good amount of time. I was impressed. It just continued to increase my positive impression of the Fort Worth campus and area.”
Cozzens, a Wyoming native, graduated from the University of Wyoming before working construction for a few years, not knowing what he wanted to do long-term.
“When I was 21, I had no clue what I was going to do or even aspire to do what a dean of students did,” he said. “I was just graduating.”
But he knew he enjoyed talking with people and hearing people out. So he went back to school to get a master’s degree in guidance and counseling education from the University of Wyoming.
He said he eventually earned a doctorate in counseling psychology from the University of North Dakota.
“I started working with people in a counseling field,” he said. “I exercised my listening skills.”
Two years into his first professional counseling job, Cozzens said he had the itch to take his skills to a college campus. In school, he said he always figured a campus would be a fun place to work.
“I thought in college, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to work in a place like this?’ Two years into my first job, I thought I’d like to apply these counseling skills to a [university] counseling center,” he said.
So he went on to work at the University of North Dakota and then at Ohio Wesleyan before coming back to the University of Wyoming, where he had served as dean of students since 2007.
Cozzens said one of his focuses at Wyoming had been student wellness. He said he is a big believer in staying fit.
“It’s hard to think you’ll be old and stiff one of these days,” Cozzens said. “It’s important to remind students to try and build those wellness and health habits you build in college.”
Then there’s the issue of suicide.
According to the TCU Counseling and Mental Health Center, six TCU students have committed suicide in the last three years. Cozzens said suicide is an issue that administrations across the country are dealing with.
At Wyoming, Cozzens helped implement the “Lifesavers” program, which aims to reduce the stigma associated with mental health issues. Cozzens said preventing crises like suicide comes down to communication.
“I think suicide prevention is really about increasing the communication and collaboration across campus, particularly for students, so we are able to see an early need,” Cozzens said. “To the degree to which we can increase that [communication at TCU], I’m all about that.”
Cozzens likens himself to the station operator on a roller coaster. It is important to be a stable point of contact and discussion for students on what can usually be a bumpy social ride in college, he said.
“Nobody likes a roller coaster on campus,” Cozzens said. “What [students] do is they go up and down real fast. I have the ability to stay in the station.”
Cozzens left Wyoming and moved to Fort Worth in December with his wife and two children. Cozzens said leaving his home state was bittersweet, but that he was ready for something new.
“It was time for a new challenge, a new opportunity. I like to try on new things and change,” he said. “And I think that’s what imbues me to higher education. I’m here to stay at this point. It keeps me young. Every day is a new challenge.”
After nearly three decades of work at universities, Cozzens sees TCU as a stopping point in his career.
“When I came to Wyoming, I didn’t really know [if I’d stay there the rest of my career.] I had a couple more decades of work, at least,” he said. “At this point in my career, I’m pretty sure TCU will be it for me. I will wrap up [here] and retire. I’m really excited about this last professional chapter.”