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Inspire Leadership: Frank Cuevas

“No one owns your career but you.”

This is one of the keys pieces of advice Frank Cuevas, associate vice chancellor for student life, would give to any professional during any point of their career; no one owns your career but you.

This mindset can be found in Associate Vice Chancellor Cuevas’ latest endeavor: writing a book chapter in Managing Career Transitions Across the Lifespan for the Frank CuevasStudent Affairs Practitioner. Partnering up with UT alumna Ellen Neufeldt and colleague Jane Adams- Dunford, his chapter focuses on how to navigate your career as a mid-level manager.

“We certainly had some themes we wanted to incorporate about working as a mid-manager as your role, responsibility, how to manage up or manage down, and also how you chart your career path.”

Other key concepts that can be taken away from this chapter include how to work with various generations in your office and the other challenges mid-level managers can face in their roles. Associate Vice Chancellor Cuevas relates the mid-manager time in one’s career to being the middle child in a family, and trying to find their place in that role.

He explains that, “You’re not quite at the table to make all the decisions but you’ve been invited to the table at times.” Associate Vice Chancellor Cuevas remarks that he can relate to that feeling, as any professional can, saying “Although I myself am the fourth child out of five, I see myself as the middle child in my own family. So, it [this chapter] resonated with me.”

Looking back on this experience, he says he really enjoyed the process. He explains that he and his co-writers had a lot of fun and laughed a lot through the writing processes. “Because I had worked with Jane with Ellen previously and had great respect with both of them, I chose to get involved in this book specifically.”

From his time in undergrad at Florida State University to his current role as associate vice chancellor for student life here at UT, he understands what it means to be a leader, not only for yourself, but for others. Taking a “leap of faith,” Associate Vice Chancellor Cuevas says he joined different clubs and organizations, such as SGA and a Greek letter organization “without having any idea what it meant.”

“In high school, I wasn’t involved in very many things, I wasn’t really engaged. I saw college a place to reinvent who I was. It’s through these experiences that gave me the opportunity to be a leader.”

However, just joining didn’t mean that he assumed leadership roles. He explains that he preferred to be the one behind the scenes, encouraging others to step up and being a support for them. After taking the time to build his confidence, that’s when his enthusiasm for leadership fully revealed itself.

When thinking of the leader he looks to be, Associate Vice Chancellor Cuevas explains that he preferers to step in and do as much work as he would ask anyone else to do and tries to be a role model for the people in his organization.

“For me, I think it’s important to role model leadership that operates from a servant standpoint, that I should be equally engaged in doing the work just as much as anyone. I can provide direction and vision, but I should be able to be in the trenches with folks and say, ‘I’m going to walk alongside you in this journey” and not be afraid to do the work.”

The university is fortunate to have the passion and drive Associate Vice Chancellor Cuevas has for not only student affairs, but for leadership, career planning, and professional development. His eagerness for learning and collaboration make him an ideal role model to aspire to.

To read Managing Career Transitions Across the Lifespan for the Student Affairs Practitioner, visit lib.utk.edu, search for the title, and login using your netID and password.


If you or someone in Student Life has been or will be published, please email ocm@utk.edu for a chance to be featured in the Inspire Leadership series.

Division of Student Life