To ensure all new joiners to a university are bought in to the norms and expected behaviors of the institution, it’s important that the university administration lead with a clear and cohesive view of what good conduct looks like and how it should be practiced.
Edward Martinez, Associate Dean for Student Affairs and Campus Senior Student Affairs Officer at Suffolk County Community College, sat down with Kira Matthews to discuss creating community, educating students on expected behaviors, and more.
I currently serve as the Associate Dean for Student Affairs and Campus Senior Student Affairs Officer at Suffolk County Community College. It’s part of the State University of New York, comprised of 64 campuses!
My story, in regard to how I got into student affairs, is a classic one. In undergrad, I was a heavily involved Student Government President, resident advisor, and club member. My Dean of Students became my first mentor, and I advocated for myself to become the college’s first Director of Student Activities.
It definitely influences my approach. I’m aware that many students are first-generation and come from underrepresented populations. I use my current position to ensure we are caring and sensitive when working with these groups and their families.
As an institution, it’s interesting: we create a sense of belonging with “self” first. Institutions have a role in culture, but I have agency, in that, I can walk around campus and say hello to people and chat with them when I’m having coffee — I’m responsible for what I can contribute to a student’s sense of belonging.
On a macro scale, I want to make sure that my staff are doing the same thing — having them walk around and attend student events, so they actually see us caring.
Yes, and it has to be that way! Administration and faculty cannot do everything on behalf of students. There’s a generation gap, so it’s our job to advocate to ensure that we don’t have a bunch of administrators in a room deciding how we do stuff without getting feedback from students.
While students cannot be at every step of the decision-making process, encouraging them to join committees and finding opportunities for them to join big meetings is important.
We must ensure that our institution has a very solid code of conduct policy. Making sure students are safe on campus should be our first and most important priority. I also participate in student and parent orientation, where I spell out expected behaviors and walk them through our solid code of conduct. Training my team members on the code of conduct is also important, so they can help deliver these messages. Having a fully engaged student body helps to keep students accountable for their actions as well.
Training my team members on the code of conduct is also important, so they can help deliver these messages. Having a fully engaged student body helps to keep students accountable for their actions as well.
We take a “teachable moment” approach — not everything needs to be punitive. Many of us make mistakes; it’s part of growing up. I want to have a conversation about why something happened and help students if they need mental health counselling, which is so often the case. Issues at home causing anger are often taken to campus — the vast majority of incidents involve people that are frustrated and upset and just need someone to listen to them.
In the State of New York, you can’t offer mental health counselling sessions without being licensed. We’re an institution of three campuses, and on each one of these campuses, there are licensed mental health counselors who do remarkable work. Our director informed me of an increase in severity regarding the reasons why students are coming in.
Many of us are concerned, and you can see it around campus: people having panic attacks and struggling through things that are quite heavy. In the news nowadays, there’s not much good stuff going on; if you’re having a tough day, and then you come home and watch the news, it can be difficult to cope and have hope.
Luckily, students are more open to receiving help these days. I encourage everyone to take up our services because it’s one of the only times in life you can seek professional assistance just for having a tough week without having to foot the cost.
Know yourself, be ready to work, have a sense of humor and be very smart with your money. Start paying down your debt immediately!
Personally, I’ve had many mentors that have guided my career. Currently, it’s Dr Maggie de la Teja, working in Texas. She’s taught me so much, including the beautiful gift of giving back.
I’m an audible guy! The most important book I’ve read is Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together In The Cafeteria, by Beverley Ann Tatum. The book argues that straight talk about racism is the only way forward.