UND Today

University of North Dakota’s Official News Source

How to make UND graduates stand out

Student engagement is key to graduating professionals who can lead in a challenging world, says new VP for Student Affairs

UND Vice President for Student Affairs Art Malloy says he would like to see a student organization for every academic field. Photo by Mike Hess/UND Today.

Editor’s note: UND Today had the great pleasure of visiting recently with Art Malloy, the University’s new vice president for Student Affairs. Today is Part 2 of that interview, which has been edited for length and clarity. The first installment was published Tuesday; if you missed it, you can find it here.

* * *

Q. You’re new to North Dakota, which has something of a reputation as one of the most homogenous places on Earth. But your background includes work as a diversity and inclusion strategist. What sorts of new ideas do you hope to deploy here?

A. I want every student to feel like every office at UND is for them, that every student should be welcomed in every UND space, that there is not a space that is for any particular group. Everyone has to feel welcome in all of our spaces. And while we may have some spaces that are specifically designed for some underrepresented groups or underserved groups, everyone still should feel comfortable in those spaces. Our spaces are for all of our students.

Q. What are the top things on your University to-do list?

A. This may sound like a broken record, but I’ll just say that my vision for the Division of Student Affairs is that we’re going to be centered on greater collaboration, and that’s with enrollment management, student success, athletics, diversity and inclusion, and other campus entities. And I think that’s going to help us collectively define the UND experience for all students.

So: First thing on the to-do list is, let’s define that UND experience. What do we all want our students to experience while they’re here? In my view, we have to provide more opportunities for students to be engaged, so they can interact and learn from each other, and see professionals in action in our offices if they work in or visit our offices.

Right now, we have about 500 students who are working in the Division of Student Affairs, and I’d like for that number to grow. Because as that number grows, our ability to retain students grows because the students are better able to afford the cost of education.

And I also think that while we have a good number of student organizations — by my last count, it’s about 260 — I would like to see a student organization for every single academic program that we have. That way, there are opportunities for students to be engaged who might not want to be engaged in anything other than something that’s associated with their academic program. That’s the main reason for this.

Here’s another idea: Consider UND LEADS. It’s a wonderful strategic plan, and I think that Student Affairs has a huge role to play in making sure that we make it a living document for students, so not only does the University lead, but our students also lead, and they lead as professionals and as persons who are comfortable in diverse environments.

Those are the things that are going to separate UND students from others. That’s what is going to give them the upper hand when it’s time for them to compete for jobs.

I speak with a great deal of passion about this, because basically, I want the same thing for our students that I wanted for my own son. And that was for him to come out of college as a more enlightened individual, a person who was totally comfortable with and respectful of diversity, a person who knows what it means to be a leader and a professional because he had taken advantage of the opportunities that the institution provided for him.

Q. In another interview, you mentioned that you also value the role colleges play in moral development. Could you elaborate on that?

A. I appreciate that question. To me, moral development is considering your actions and how your actions affect others. It’s basically you questioning whether you’re focusing on yourself or on how you fit into your environment and how you can help your environment more than you help yourself. It teaches us not to be selfish.

Q. Are there any trends or concerns you may have learned about since coming here that are of particular concern to you? For example, and I don’t think this applies to UND, but I could imagine a school that has earned a distinction as a party school with associated problems of alcohol abuse.

A. No, I would have to say no. Of course, I’ve arrived during one of the coldest months of the year, and perhaps that has something to do with the relative calm.

But as an aside, that’s one of the things I love about UND. I’m amazed to see students walking around in shorts. I’m amazed to see students with no hats on. I’m thinking, “Wow, North Dakotans must be the toughest people I have ever been around in my life,” because I don’t know how these people are doing this.

In truth, though, I haven’t been shocked to learn anything. I think President (Andy) Armacost was pretty upfront, and the staff and (interim VP) Beth Hellwig were pretty upfront about any challenges I would face coming here.

I find the students to be generally well-behaved. I find them to be very well-mannered. And I find them to be very engaging. So if anything surprised me, it was those things to the level that I’ve experienced them. And I have experienced them, and it’s been extremely pleasing.

Q. I was intrigued by the fact that your undergraduate degree is in film and television. How did that come about? And is there any particular skill set or talent related to that background that you might be bringing to the job?

A. I have to take you back … I have a disability, and my disability is that I stuttered terribly for the first seven years of my life — to the point where I was in special classes because they didn’t think I was very smart. And it was simply that I couldn’t articulate.

I overcame that speech impediment. It took me a long time, but I overcame it. And I remember there was a wonderful, wonderful lady who had been teaching me for several years, and she said, “You’re going to be a great speaker one day! I can see it.” And so, when it was time for me to go to college, I actually started to run for offices and got involved in student government. I had more confidence, and I was on the basketball team, too.

I realized I wasn’t going to be a professional basketball player, but I thought, “Hmm. Maybe I could have a career in television and radio and, in that way, I could keep on being involved in sports.”

Then, I went to Shaw University and started working with their radio station. And I loved being on radio. I ended up getting a job at the television station there in Raleigh, N.C., and I loved doing that, too. But I also minored in French. So what I was thinking was, all of these things are preparing me to be an ambassador to a French-speaking country. I was actually thinking I was going to be an ambassador to one of the French-speaking African countries. But I transitioned into higher education, and I found my place in life.

So, I guess it all comes full circle from this guy who could barely get his words out to a guy who talks to people every day about the university experience, and how that experience actually can help make the world a better place. My experience with the field of communications, including the training and support that I received there, was a big factor in bringing that about.

I still stutter, but I’m very deliberate about trying to make sure I can be understood and that I don’t get so excited that I start stuttering again. It certainly can happen, and sometimes it does. But now when it happens, I just smile. This is who I am.

Q. What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

A. The best advice I’ve ever been given is to always make sure that if you achieve something, you remember that it wasn’t just you and that there are a lot of people who need to be thanked. So, what I’ve learned to do is share the credit when things are going well, but then take responsibility when they’re not.

Q. What’s your favorite part of your work in Student Affairs?

A. You know, there are students whom I met 30 years ago, and we still talk today. I want to see students succeed. I’m going to push them to succeed, and I’m going to celebrate them after they succeed.

When all is said and done, I will be able to walk away from higher ed knowing that I’ve had a significant impact on the lives of students — that I was able to do something along with my colleagues to contribute to making the world a better place. It’s been fun, and I so look forward to having the opportunity to do that here as well.