Final Dean of Students candidate addresses ISU at open forum

Aimee Burch

The final open forum with finalists for the Dean of Student’s position at Iowa State was Wednesday in the Cardinal Room of Memorial Union.

Terry Mena, currently the associate dean of students at Florida Atlantic University, addressed members of the campus community in a presentation followed by a question and answer session.

Mena began his presentation by going over the roles he currently fulfills at Florida Atlantic.

“I am called upon when student and university policies are questioned,” Mena said. “I’m the keeper of the Student Code of Conduct and have kept the university out of litigation.”

Mena described his management style as one of being a leader and strategic thinker. He touts his abilities to be a collaborator, an advocate, and flexible when it comes modifying approaches. Developing human capital, creating leaders and being held accountable are also key in Mena’s style.

“I like to ask questions. That begins a dialogue,” he said. “My role is to get the conversation started.”

Mena said during his phone interview and through his interactions with ISU students, he was able to assess what students feel are the current issues facing them and the university as a whole. While there are many, particularly the increasing cost of higher education, Mena said the issues of mental health, promoting civility and citizenship in a global society, and diversity and social justice issues were the paramount issues presented.

Mena said that if he is offered the Dean of Student’s position, he would ensure his office provided the support and assistance students desire in an institution.

“I will guide, mentor, and challenge those to ask the critical questions,” said Mena. “We’ll look to strategic plans and initiatives as road maps to move us forward and find the best practices to gather data and bring forth the best path.”

Open forums where topics can be discussed in various circles and where his office can hear how these decisions impact different communities within the university will also be keys in Mena’s tenure as dean. This will allow the engagement of students, faculty, and staff in the process.

“We’ll make sure what we say we’re doing is actually happening,” Mena said.

Mena said that through meeting and talking with ISU students throughout this process, he found areas students would like to see the Dean of Student’s Office improve upon in the months and years to come.

“Students want consistency out of the Dean of Students Office,” Mena said. “They want a one-stop environment for student engagement. They want the office to have more visibility and a brand. Many students didn’t know who or what the office is.”

Mena wants the office to have an open door policy for students and staff, where the office is a conduit for relaying information and engagement. Transparency and communication will also be major factors.

Mena touted the Crisis Awareness Committee he helped establish at Florida Atlantic as a model he would like to implement at Iowa State. The committee, established after the Virginia Tech shootings, is an “interdisciplinary structure for student support” and advocates a proactive approach to student success. The committee, Mena said, has the authority to act and implements a mental assessment and code of conduct on students when necessary and acts as a plan to reach out to students.

In the question and answer session, Mena addressed questions concerning his experience dealing with university politics and issues with parents, particularly those “helicopter” parents.

“[In university politics,] you have to pick your battles and stick to core values,” Mena said. “I’ve learned to talk with staff to stay out of hot water, do the work to get ready and educate yourself on the matter.”

To answer the parental involvement question, Mena said in the past his university has created a parent association and institute where parents can talk with one another first before addressing those in his office and other administrative offices.

“However, if they go to my office immediately instead, we tell them we’ll look into the issue and get back to them within 24 hours,” he said.

Mena hopes that if he is offered the position, he will be able to connect with everyone on such a large campus.

“I’ll go where the students are,” he said. “I’ll be present on move in day and orientation, giving messages to both students and parents. I’ll go to various areas like student government associations, sports and recreation, and the Greek system to make my presence known.”