While most services offered to students specialize in one area (i.e. Financial Aid, the Tutoring Center, or Academic Advising), the Dean of Students has a mandate to better understand all campus resources to ensure the wellness, safety, and stability of students.
Services offered by the Dean’s Office are numerous and widespread, but ultimately deal with matters of student wellness, safety, and stability.
Kip Harris, who serves as BYU-Idaho’s Dean of Students, is recognized as an advocate for the student. In order to maintain a closer relationship with students, he is purposefully detached from many administrative responsibilities. However, this does not displace him from his relationship with the faculty and administration.
The Dean of Students Office can assist mainly in two areas: 1) students who are experiencing difficult family issues, safety issues, or serious medical issues that affect their schooling, and 2) students who feel like they’ve received the “run-around” and can’t find a direct answer to a problem regarding their schooling.
“Sometimes students have been to five different offices, and no one can give them a definitive answer. It’s not that they’re not giving a definitive answer; many times we find the student is asking the wrong question,” Harris said.
Every student’s concern has a story behind it. These stories provide details that help uncover potentially deeper concerns that need to be addressed.
“Most often what I find is that kids just need to be able to tell their story so that they feel like they’ve been heard, and sometimes in our rush to support policy we don’t always give them the chance to tell their whole story,” Harris said.
This is a primary responsibility of the Student Dean’s Office. They have the time to listen to every detail, and the ability to either help them understand why a process is in place or put students in direct contact with those who will ultimately help solve their problem.
The Student Dean’s Office also has a direct assignment from the university to help students who are afflicted with serious illness or are in emergency situations by contacting all their professors directly. This communication most often comes in the form of an email.
“Oftentimes faculty members think we’re trying to tell them what they should do, and that’s not our role. We simply try to help them understand that a student is in jeopardy and ask if there’s something they can do to help,” Harris said.
When faculty members become aware of seriously struggling students, they are encouraged to refer them to the Dean of Students Office, who will advise them through their struggles and help them navigate their school and personal life for the better of their college education.
“Their level of expertise ought to be in the classroom, not in all of the other supports that the student needs. Sometimes it takes someone who can get them into all other campus services,” Harris said.
This allows faculty to focus on their class, rather than have to advise students personally on how to manage their lives. Issues specific to a student’s major are reserved for that particular academic college, while other issues of more serious matter should be referred to the Dean of Students.
For more information about the Dean of Students Office, visit www.byui.edu/dean-of-students.