The Lode interviews the new Dean

Photo+from+MTU+website

Photo from MTU website

Madison Degnitz and Chris Davis

Where did you graduate from?

“I’ve graduated three times; I got my Bachelor’s Degree and my Master’s Degree from the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut, so I know snow. My Bachelor’s degree was English and my Master’s was Counselling… and my Ph.D. is of Education Planning, Policy, and Administration from the University of Maryland College Park.”

 

Where did you land your first big job that you were excited to land?

“I was assistant to the president at my alma mater [University of Bridgeport]. Part of my job was to work on institutional total quality management.”

 

“I was also an ombudsperson for students in that assistant to the president role. I did that for almost a year, I think, and then she [the president] left for another job and then I was assigned to student affairs and that’s what started my student affairs career. What people don’t know about that story, when I got that job, is that I was at a university senate meeting with the university president and she told me that her assistant was retiring. And I gave her a note and that note said, ‘Can I have that job?’ And she smiled and said, “Come talk to me,” and so the rest is history. If there’s anything I would tell the students is you can’t be afraid to ask the question. It’s 100 percent certainty you won’t get it if you don’t ask. 50/50 if you do.”

 

Why do you have two job titles in Dean and VP of Student Affairs? Are they distinctly different?

“It’s what made the position attractive.”

 

“I think [the two titles] cut down on some degree of confusion – ‘Well if you’re the VP what’s the dean do? If you’re the dean then what does the VP do?’ Well, y’know, I oversee it all. And I have associate deans who can do the day-to-day work and carry out the day-to-day responsibilities which gives more time to advocate for students at the higher administrative level.”

 

“It absolutely can be [different]. The Dean of Students, at a lot of institutions, is pretty much responsible for academic conduct, student leadership, fraternity and sorority life, community service, those kinds of things, whereas your Vice President is the one who basically is overseeing everything. It’s coordinating all of those different departments on behalf of the university. But in this university, as the Dean of Students, I have to be responsible for those very narrow responsibilities, and because I am the Vice President I cannot ignore those other departments that are not part of the Dean of Students office. I would add to this conversation that a lot of institutions struggled with: What does it mean to be a Dean of Students office? Historically, through myth and legend, we’re equivalent to the principal’s office. That’s what we see on TV, almost every movie that you see the Dean is like the disciplinarian. We are evolving from that kind of image, and so some institutions try to figure out, well, is the Dean of Students about conduct? Is it about service? Is it about engagement? Is it about student success? My own philosophy is that the answer is ‘yes.’ It is not limited to just being a conduct office.”

 

What have you already accomplished in your first 100 days at MTU?

“I haven’t been here long enough, I don’t think I’m qualified to make policy changes yet, but I started Pizza with the President, with USG and GSG, and so those are designed to really focus on building goodwill. Between the student leaders and the administration, myself, and the president and other university administrators, it’s designed to keep the lines of communication open between the two audiences, and as I’m meeting with students [they say], ‘Oh, what about regular communication with the president’” And so we were trying to figure out, ‘What would go with the P in president, oh Pizza with the President!’ So I said ‘that makes sense to me, let’s do it.’”

 

“Another thing that I’ve done is I’ve approved a request from one of my associate deans to increase a 9-month mental health counselor to 12 months. … the position became vacant as the person is leaving, so now we’re gonna say, ‘You know what, we have a greater need.’ We’re shifting it from 9 to 12 to meet the needs of the population.”

 

“I have also approved another associate dean’s request to increase an 80 percent work time for our coordinator of student disability services to a full 100 percent.”