Opportunities to develop communication paths between College administrators and students were highlighted in the Annual Report for goals of the College. Some of these avenues include The Provost’s Listening Post, Dishin’ with the Deans and Ken Westphal’s upcoming forum on financial aid. All of these interactive offerings are geared to improve communication, create more community building and provide intentional listening opportunities to ensure the College’s continual improvement.
Provost and Dean of the College Mark Braun hosted The Provost’s Listening Post for the first time on Tuesday, Oct. 30, and around twenty students came to talk with him on academic issues. Various topics that were discussed include scheduling, registration, J-term and financial aid while he also received many positive comments about students’ academic experiences.
“Some students made strong, concrete suggestions that I shared at our meeting,” Braun said.
As Dean at Augustana before coming to Gustavus, Braun provided a similar opportunity to interact with the student body called Huddle with the Dean; thus the idea for The Provost’s Listening Post came easily to him.
“It gave a lot of insight,” Braun said. “There’s value in students seeing administration as accessible and available.”
With a black and gold striped barber pole to draw attention, Braun also set out a bowl of pennies, telling students, “A penny for your thoughts.” The monthly informal discussions are held at the tables on the upper level of the Campus Center and serve as a “suggestion box” to the administration whereas Braun suggests using other avenues for serious complaints. He plans to continue the discussion opportunities into the spring and throughout his time as Provost. The next Listening Post will be Monday, Nov. 26 from 12-1 p.m.
“I’m trying to be approachable and someone [students] can come to if they have a concern or idea,” Braun said. “When people see the black and gold post, students should feel free to stop by.”
Dishin’ with the Deans is another venue that serves to connect College administrators with College faculty. Dishin’ with the Deans features monthly discussion opportunities similar to The Provost’s Listening Post where faculty members are encouraged to come and bring questions and concerns to the Dean of Students JoNes Van Hecke.
Also coming up this December is a financial aid forum held by Vice President for Finance and Treasurer Ken Westphal. This event will be held at 4 p.m. on Dec. 4 in Alumni Hall. Senior Political Science and Philosophy Major and Student Senate Co-president Josh Sande has been working with Westphal on the event as well as engaging frequently with other members of the administration with fellow Co-president and Senior Psychological Science Major Tasha Ostendorf.
“As for reflections on our personal conversations with individual members of the administration, I would say that we have been impressed with the willingness of administrators to openly discuss this issue with us and work on ways to inform students,” Sande said. “It was Mr. Wesphal’s idea in the first place to approach senate with his presentation, and was very receptive to our idea of making it more public.”
With the variety of opportunities being offered this year for students and administrators to informally interact with one another, students and faculty are encouraged to participate in defining and improving the structure of the institution. It is the goal of these opportunities for discussion to direct the College towards a reflection upon its most central values and guarantee an enjoyable, affordable and quality academic experience for all at Gustavus.