The Interview USA
University of Southern Maine
Dean of Students

Rodney Mondor

A huge part of the role of Dean of Students is about being a proactive advocate for student safety and development, engaging with students from the outset to ensure that they have what they need in order to have a positive university experience. 

GoodCourse Community Engagement Lead Kira Matthews spoke to Rodney Mondor, Dean of Students at the University of Southern Maine, about bridging the gap between admissions and university life, and the importance of reaching out to students that are struggling.

Rodney's Journey

Kira: What brought you to student affairs?

As a student, I loved my college experience at the University of Maine. I was a Residence Assistant in student halls, and I got very involved in music and student groups. One day, I sat down with the Dean of Students, and he said, “If this is what you love, why not do it as a career?” I knew immediately that this was my calling.

Kira: I know you created and managed the university’s Welcome Center. Can you tell me a little more about that?

I can tell you how it started, though it’s changed a lot since then. The Welcome Center was intended as a “bridge” for students between admissions and campus life. We wanted to create a single stop to help new students and make a new foundation to work with all the different departments. I have a diversified background — I’ve worked in residence, academic advising, and the careers center — and I wanted to bring all those things together in a single place. It’s now less of a Welcome Center and more of a way of life. 

Kira: It sounds like you have a passion for student engagement. What initiatives are you leading to help students feel a sense of belonging?

In many schools, the Dean of Students is a disciplinarian, but I consider myself to be an advocate. It’s important to be pre-emptive and help students before issues arise. Students should know it’s okay to be anxious sometimes, and we need to support them with the right resources. 

I’m on the go all the time between our two campuses. I’m always out and about, using social media like Instagram to engage with students. I want my office to be a place students can come to with any question. We also use surveys and phone calls to reach out to students. I think the key is that students feel heard. 

Kira: That touches on our next question. I know you are involved in retention efforts: how can you make sure students successfully complete their degrees?

I don’t oversee retention directly, but we work together closely. We have an incredible academic advising program to support students. All incoming students receive a 90-minute advising and course selection appointment with a professional advisor. We’ve worked with various departments to create progress reports: this year, we sent out 21,000 inquiries to monitor students’ progress. This lets us follow up with students who are having trouble and offer them support. Communication is key: we’ve had a lot of great feedback from students about these initiatives. 

Kira: Consent and sexual assault are important concerns on campuses. How can we support students faced with these issues?

Students have mandated training when they arrive on campus, and we bring experts in to have those conversations with students. Outreach is important: we use social media to send out educational resources. My weekly newsletter contains information on counseling and safety. We also have a reporting system, but my role is to be there for the student as an advocate. It’s important to name it and talk about it. We need to have these conversations early on. 

Kira: You’ve been part of some really transformative initiatives at your university. What achievements are you most proud of?

I really feel that our orientation program has grown to give students a unified experience across different departments: advising, financial services, and academics. We have to ask how we can prepare students to get ahead of problems. We also use online and in-person resources to provide students and families with support. In my 25 years here, we have really stepped up to help students make the transition. College is scary, plain and simple: it’s a new experience, so you really need to take the time to help students navigate it at their level. 

3 Quick-fire Questions

Kira: What’s your top tip for people getting into Higher Education (HE)?

Try everything, and be adaptable. HE is ever-changing. There is the potential of being pigeonholed into one thing, so the more you understand students and the more work experience you have, the better. I don’t know it all, but I know enough to get into trouble, and I know enough to help. 

Kira: Who do you most admire in the HE space?

For me, two people come to mind. John Gardner was the head of the First Year Experience Institute and also one of my professors. I did a lot of work as a grad student at the University of South Carolina, and he was a great mentor. 

As a professional working in academic advising, I was connected with an organization called NACADA, the international association for academic advising. Charlie Nutt was the executive director and my mentor. He really taught me how to be a professional, how to take advantage of opportunities and apply myself to what I do.

Kira: What is the most important book you’ve read?

The Relationship Rich Education, by Peter Felten and Leo M. Lambert. It’s really about the human factor, remembering that our students are individuals. You always have to remember that the person sitting in the chair has a story, and nobody’s story is the same. 

Curious to see what the future of training looks like?
Kira Matthews
Community Engagement Lead
Kira leads our community outreach team working hand-in-hand with changemakers on both sides of the pond. If you want to join the next series of The Interview, or just learn more about GoodCourse, then get in touch at

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