Facilitating new cohorts of student leaders is an important element of campus life. It connects students and provides organizations and initiatives with the leadership needed for their continued success. During Covid, lack of face-to-face connection meant Higher Education (HE) leaders had to tackle this challenge with ingenuity and out of the box thinking.
Hi, my name is Mick Deluca, and I’m the Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Campus Life) at UCLA. It’s a broad portfolio of departments, services, and leadership positions. I love that I get to balance everything from the highest-profile events to everyday services and the needs of students.
My own background is sports, athletics and recreation. At one point in my life I thought that’s what I was — a coach and administrator. It morphed into running facilities and delivering programs, which cascaded to the broader scope of the current day. Where else can you work where there’s a grand reopening every year with a whole new array of people?
What university does is produce leaders. It’s thinking about the competencies of these roles; it’s not positional. Staff and students lead from where they’re at. I try to create a philosophy and set of values about what leadership means at UCLA, despite the fact that there are many leadership roles here, and they all take quite different forms.
I try to create a philosophy and set of values about what leadership means at UCLA, despite the fact that there are many leadership roles here, and they all take quite different forms.
Then there’s piloting, enhancing, and fostering specific programs committed to the leadership development of student organization leaders. Even at the moment, one of our biggest problems is that the pandemic created a leadership gap in regard to our relationship with students. It was difficult to do it on zoom; so many student leaders we didn’t meet in person.
I start with the basics. What I missed the most was meeting students one-on-one in person. I’m being really intentional about trying to meet in person when people come to me with issues or needs. I also remind myself and staff that you can’t delegate your presence — it’s important to be present at early morning meetings and events like the rally of our Iranian students that lasted late into the night.
We’re a large public university with people from diverse backgrounds, interests, and identities. We want to see and acknowledge people and develop programs and resources for them. We’re taking a group of 25 students to Washington DC next week to discuss history and politics, but it’s also a community-building activity — they don’t know each other well (yet).
People. Solving a problem for a person and the success they become because of the problem you helped them solve. I take pride in creating the resources that help folks be their best selves.
The pandemic exposed a lot of inequities and social justice related issues. Not being able to embrace that in person has caused issues. We were one of the most locked-down areas of the country, here on the West coast. We had masking until last June/July.
I asked a student how they were finding studies, and they admitted they were struggling. Their first year wasn’t on campus, and their second year was on campus but still online, so she said she was having trouble concentrating. We’re always having to broaden our basic provisions.
Every social movement in the US goes left to right, meaning on the West Coast, changes happen a bit later. We want to be more attentive to this and guess what’ll happen before we have to adapt; food insecurity is one example of this.
You have to love and embrace ambiguity. There are no absolutes, and no two days will be alike. Embrace that, and see it as an asset.
There are so many names. Our executive VC and Provost Darnell Hunt, former Dean of Sociology here at UCLA for years, led the Diversity in Hollywood report. He coined a term that is really resonant for me: ‘Our drive is to create inclusive excellence.’
I came across Inclusive Conversations: Fostering Empathy and Belonging Across Difference by Mary Francis Winters. It really resonated with me because that is our work now.