The benefits of diversity extend beyond representation; a diverse educational setting challenges and clarifies the majority's assumptions, fosters creativity, and cultivates a deeper understanding of the world we share. This understanding is at the heart of the work done by Art Malloy, Vice President for Student Affairs at the University of North Dakota, who has worked tirelessly to make his institution one where all students can feel at home.
Art met with Kitty Hadaway, Co-host of The Interview, to discuss issues including the importance of student safety and inclusivity, the challenges of free speech on campus, and preparing students for success beyond higher education.
I am the Vice President for Student Affairs at the University of North Dakota. We’re a comprehensive Research I institution with about 14,000 students. We are located on the Grand Forks, right on the border of Minnesota, and just a short drive to Winnipeg, Canada. We have fantastic leaders, a faculty that is second to none, and phenomenal students. It’s a pleasure to help change the world, one student at a time.
As a college student, I served as a resident assistant for three years while I pursued and obtained a degree in film and television. I worked in that industry long enough to find out it wasn’t for me. Immediately after I obtained my master of arts degree, I became an instructor at my alma mater, Shaw University. Since I taught at night, I looked for something to occupy my time during the day. I applied for a position at North Carolina State University as an area director for an international living and learning residence hall. I started working there in 1989. I have never left student affairs since that time. I have held many different positions at several colleges and universities since that time.
My philosophy for working with students is to help them walk away with three things: first, students need to feel seen; second, they need to feel heard; and finally, they need to know that you believe in them. Students like to know that there is a plan for their success. The place to start is by providing a welcoming environment for all students. One of the ways to show students how special they are is to consistently provide excellence in service delivery. I believe excellence and service are things everyone should aspire to: if you have that, you don’t need to take specific measures for one group because you’re doing the same thing for everyone. Students need to see diversity. They need to know how important it is to be able to navigate in a diverse environment. Hopefully it becomes easier when students see diversity reflected in the fellow students, staff, and faculty. To achieve that, we’ve taken specific measures, including offices designed to serve students from underrepresented backgrounds, but have programs and services in those offices designed to educate and benefit all students. At other universities, I have seen the tendency to leave out those who comprise majority groups. We work diligently to avoid doing this at UND. Everyone is invited to everything we have to offer. Diversity doesn’t just benefit underrepresented groups: it needs to include everyone.
Earlier I referred to hearing from students as one of my values. I want to make sure students are learning how to develop their voices in college. It’s vital that they learn to do that as first-year students and refine their voices as they continue to develop it throughout their college journey. For me, mutual respect is the number one rule: we need to consider different opinions and perspectives. There might be things we don’t want to hear, but universities are the perfect laboratories for exploring differences of opinion. Civility is imperative. Sadly we have slowly been able to witness a pattern of less and less civility with our discourse. So we need to demonstrate that it’s okay to disagree but that shutting others down because we do not agree with them is unacceptable. Ultimately, we want to bring students together to present their differing views and opinions in an environment that is respectful and safe.
For me, mutual respect is the number one rule: we need to consider different opinions and perspectives. There might be things we don’t want to hear, but universities are the perfect laboratories for exploring differences of opinion.
You can’t have safety if you don’t have trust. So we work hard to show students that we have mechanisms in place to keep them safe. It’s not just about physical safety; words can hurt you as much as weapons. Our students who have been marginalized need to know we have support networks and allies who are here for them. In our country, we’re living in a time where it’s difficult to be different: that applies to our trans and non-binary students, students of color, and even our women students. We have lots of opportunities to raise awareness about social issues on campus: not only through dialogue but also by creating partnerships to help everyone feel safe, respected, and heard. We must never abandon our efforts to include all of our students in decision-making processes, to celebrate the various awareness months, and to be involved and engaged in all the campus has to offer.
Here at UND, we are blessed that students crave leadership opportunities, appreciate the arts and social activities, volunteer to serve, focus on wellness and well-being, desire to hear from the best and brightest, and love to cheer for the Fighting Hawks. Getting students involved is not a problem. But there’s also so much more: we have over 250 student organizations, and most of our students belong to at least one. Not all of that engagement is visible to us, as a lot of it happens in residence halls in fraternity and sorority houses and in various pockets of the community. We recently constructed and opened our new $80 million student union, and we’re working to constantly come up with innovative ways to encourage students to get involved and stay connected.
We work together at UND, not just in student affairs, to provide the kind of guidance for students from the day they arrive to the day they graduate that helps them be successfully academically and professionally. Our effort includes everything from leadership to internships to networking. By the time students leave us, we want them to be empowered and enlightened by what they’ve learned here and ready to enter into professional careers as well-educated and confident alumni. The experience at UND is designed to help all students succeed. We take great pride in the deliberate nature of the work that we do.