The Interview USA
Seton Hall University
Vice President of Student Services

Monica Burnette

We cannot underestimate the power of student voice. It's about giving students a platform to share their ideas, opinions, and experiences so they can influence their educational environment. For Higher Education (HE) professionals, student voice is the gateway to unlocking valuable insights about what students truly value and need as they navigate their college experience.

Max Webber, Co-Host of The Interview, caught up with Monica Burnette, Vice President (VP) of Student Services at Seton Hall University, to speak about how they’re using student insights to build representation, access, and opportunity in education.

Monica's Journey

Max: Let's start with a brief introduction to yourself and your institution.

My name is Monica Burnette; I was born in San Francisco and moved to the East Coast 16 years ago. I have a degree in Human Development, a Master’s in HE, and a PhD in HE Leadership and Management. I’ve always been drawn to the mission of education to empower students to be active, engaged, and compassionate learners who positively contribute to society. I’ve been at Seton Hall University for about ten years, where I’m now VP of Student Services.Our teams are responsible for key areas of student life, specifically academic success, campus inclusion and community, student engagement, and student wellness, safety, and security.

Seton Hall is a private Catholic research university in South Orange, New Jersey. We’re home to about 10,000 diverse students; we’re known as a top performer when it comes to social mobility. We’re dedicated to improving education access and opportunity for students, particularly those who identify as first-generation students or come from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

Max: What’s your biggest focus in building a sense of belonging and inclusion on campus?

Students want to feel supported, connected, and valued in their contribution to the community and college life. As part of our shared governance model at Seton Hall, we actively collaborate with our Student Government Association. This partnership amplifies student voices, shaping our understanding of what inclusion and belonging truly mean for our student body.

Max: How do you approach driving engagement with belonging and inclusion initiatives at scale?

Listening to our student body is vital; this relies on our strong partnerships with the Student Government Association and other campus clubs and organizations. We also leverage technology to meet students where they are; short, digestible content for information sharing has proven most effective. We’ve also found success through peer-led initiatives; for example, we’ll feature student leaders on our socials to share information and promote events, and our Tiny Mic Tuesday feature invites students to share their campus experiences informally. 

We also use Engage, an education software program, to curate events and programs for our students based on their interests – aligning student context with program offerings contributes to better student engagement.

Max: How are you working to ensure students engage with one another respectfully, particularly in light of the increasingly polarizing political landscape?

This is definitely a challenge. We think the college experience is an opportunity to explore skills like open discourse and conflict resolution. We want our students to learn that it’s not about agreeing; it’s about understanding. We approach this in two key ways: collaborating with university clubs and organizations to build connections and set ground rules for community expectations, and giving our students opportunities to participate in facilitated discussions and group-based experiences.

Max: How do you reinforce these key learnings across the student journey?

This needs to be a university-wide effort tied together through the guidance of our DEI committee. Student buy-in is also key; the student leaders we work with daily help amplify our messaging and reinforce ideas organically after students have engaged in training or information sessions.

Max: What’s your biggest focus area for DEI?

We have three key focuses at the moment. We’re improving representation by ensuring our curriculum reflects diverse perspectives and offering new training opportunities on topics like cultural competency and antiracism. We’re also being very intentional about our communication and programming to ensure students have access to a range of DEI-focused initiatives year-round.

Max: What do you feel has contributed most to Seton Hall’s success with social mobility?

Our cohort programs have been intentionally designed to support underrepresented student communities holistically; these programs have significantly contributed to our success in this space. A great example is our Educational Opportunity Program, a New Jersey State Federal program that supports more than 300 students through additional academic, career progression, and well-being support. Our Fall-Spring first-year, full-time cohort has been a resounding success with a typically unheard-of 100% student retention rate.

Max: What is the best piece of advice you’ve received across the course of your career?

I’d say self-care is crucial for personal well-being and effectiveness in the Student Affairs space. Research shows a high burnout rate among Student Affairs professionals; it’s so important to understand that you need to be okay to support those around you, which is at the heart of what we do.

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Max Webber
Max works closely with people leaders and change-makers in our professional services markets. If you're looking to feature on The Interview, or simply want to learn more about GoodCourse, then get in touch at

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