NDSU is a student-focused, land grant, research university. It is what our marketing team strives for us to be known for. Our vice president of student affairs is primarily targets one of these aspects: students.
On Friday, NDSU hosted its first candidate for the new vice president of student affairs. Current VP, Prakash Mathew will retire after this year, leaving some very big shoes to fill.
Timothy Alvarez is currently the assistant vice chancellor for student affairs at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and has been in this position since 2007. Previously, he was an interim director for the Office of Academic Success and Intercultural Services and the Culture Center. Before that, he was an academic adviser for minority students and assistant director of admissions.
Alvarez commented on how he loved our university’s vibrancy on campus and our land-grant mission. One thing many students believe is a vital component to our success and charm is our unity (We are BisoNation, NDSU family, etc.).
Alvarez’s past experience-especially of that in the intercultural services and advising for minority students-is apparent in his mission. One of NDSU’s main focuses is on the diversity of our students, which is important considering over 1,300 of the students on campus are international students.
However, our cohesiveness is essential, and that may have been something Alvarez missed.
International students need to have additional services and support, especially because they are in an unfamiliar place. But a VP of student affairs cannot only be focused on one group of our entire NDSU community – our student body should be viewed as more united.
Throughout the open forum, Alvarez covered a wide breadth of topics: parents, research, collaboration, civic engagement, practicing gratitude, post-graduation research and external funding. But it was not until the end of his presentation that the slide read, “Students first.”
This should have been focused on more prominently throughout the entire presentation; that is what student affairs is all about.
Alvarez did bring up some good topics that are applicable to all students though, one being the purpose of education.
While I was waiting at the bus stop, I was having a conversation with a student in front of me about what our major was. Toward the end of the conversation, the student said, “I just want to make money.”
If students are just going to college because they want to make money, there is a good chance that it will be a miserable four (or more) years. Alvarez brought this up during the open forum. He stressed that the purpose of education is not to get a job- or “make money” for that matter-but to obtain analytical and communication skills that will be applicable no matter where you end up.
Another one of Alvarez’s goals was to help students practice gratitude by facilitating conversations, asking them if they understand how lucky they are to be receiving the education or financial support to gain higher education they receive. This is something that often gets lost during the everyday grind as a student.
Although Alvarez focused on conversation as his main strategy for most issues, one method he used for connecting with students is something that could make NDSU a better place.
Alvarez chose 20 students on campus that were not visible student leaders and facilitated a 10-week program with them discussing leadership. He defined this as a segment of the population who has potential but may not be aware of it, as many students at NDSU are. It is important for student affairs to focus on average students, not just the students who are involved in ten different campus groups or presidents of their organizations.
Emma is a senior majoring in journalism. Follow her on Twitter @emmajheaton2.