New administrator to address student life

The University of Minnesota will add a vice provost for student experience to its leadership team this fall.

Blair Emerson

University of Minnesota leaders are working to make every student’s experience better.

In an effort to ensure the University is an inclusive place, the Office for Student Affairs is adding a new administrative position this fall to focus solely on making all types of people feel comfortable on campus.

“[The administrator’s] overall purpose would be to look at how we are developing our students to give them the best experience,” said Vice Provost for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Danita Brown Young.

The office created the new position while doing restructuring and realizing the University’s need to reach out to every student, Brown Young said, adding that the new administrator will especially focus on commuter students and those involved in co-curricular activities or Greek life.

Along with focusing on improving undergraduate students’ experiences, the vice provost will work with graduate and professional students — the office’s first administrative position to do both.

A search committee, which is composed of students and staff members from various departments and student groups throughout the institution, will select a candidate by fall, said Patricia Jones Whyte, chair of the search committee and director of the Office for Diversity in Graduate Education.

Strategic communication senior Talia Saville, who is president of the Panhellenic Council that governs the University’s 14 sororities, said she wants the new position to help strengthen the Greek community by promoting the importance of campus sororities and fraternities.

“Hopefully [the new vice provost] will continue to grow Greek life — and have more students get interested and get involved — and continue growing our community because we do hope to get a little bit bigger,” she said.

A University task force is currently working on a goal set in 2012 to add more than 1,000 new members to the school’s Greek population by 2018.

Commuter students also hope the new leader addresses their issues. Alexander Ha, a member of the student group Commuter Connection, said he hopes the administrator will work with other school leaders to improve the school’s bus system so students who have to commute to campus can participate in University activities more easily.

Ha, who commutes from Brooklyn Park, said some city buses don’t run on the weekends when many University events occur, and he wants the routes to expand.

Brown Young said the person who fills the position will be required to have experience working with people from diverse backgrounds.

Asian-American Student Union adviser and former President Woo Chul Lee said it will be important that the new leadership position is filled by someone with a diverse background and a wide variety of cultural experiences.

“If they could find someone who has actually had experience joining a cultural student organization, and then went through those difficulties in terms of diversity … that would be a really great candidate,” he said.

Council of Graduate Students President Andrew McNally said it’s important that graduate students are included in the position’s line of work because they’re sometimes ignored in large decisions made at the University.

“I hope that the position focuses on recognizing there’s no one, single type of student experience that’s privileged,” he said.

Whyte said the new position will look at the University’s current resources offered for students to find areas where it’s “falling a little short in meeting the needs of students.”

Whyte said there will be another new administrative spot added to the Graduate School this fall to focus on the academic and professional development of graduate students, adding that she hopes the two new positions work together to address the needs of graduate students.