by Renata Opoczynski, Assistant Dean for Student Success Assessment and Strategic Initiatives

It is hard to believe it is already the end of the school year, and next week marks one year in my role.  I interviewed on campus in mid-March, the day before many of us shifted to remote work “for a few weeks.”  I remember calling the search chair that morning to confirm we were in fact still going to do the interview.  When accepting the role, I never imagined I would be spending the first year fully online, having to fundamentally re-shift how I engage in my work. In a brand new position that is largely about relationship building and coordinating work that is “other duties as assigned” for colleagues, the last 12 months have definitely been difficult. There is still a lot that needs to get done, but I am happy with the progress we have made over the last year. 

When I first started, we paused the work on most of the strategic initiatives going on as everyone was frantically adjusting to the new normal for campus and trying to figure out how to support our colleagues and students. After a few months, when it was clear this disruption was going to be longer and bigger than expected, we decided to dismantle those initiatives and allow the committee members to focus their energy elsewhere.  For several months I kept punting projects, changes, and initiatives where possible so we could focus on the things that really needed to happen.  Anything that was “wouldn’t it be nice if…” got put on the list for farther down the road.  By November I felt comfortable to start to bring some of the ideas back and start to support, build, and reshape the student success ecosystem on campus.

Over the last few months, we launched four new projects, began the groundwork to start another, and brought two already existing projects into new spaces and with a more student success-focused scope. We reimagined the committees focused on student success, more clearly articulating the purpose of each, and worked to build bridges across all the student success work happening on campus. We asked students how they were experiencing MSU and what could contribute to their success, and then we made changes based on what we heard. We thought about new and different ways to get your feedback on initiatives and share progress on our work (see the first of monthly project updates here). That is a lot in just a few months!

As I reflect on this last year, I am feeling grateful: grateful that the search committee entrusted me with this amazing role on campus, and grateful for the wonderful colleagues I get to work with everyday who challenge me to be better, support me in my off the wall ideas, and are always willing to jump in on another project/workgroup/committee. I intentionally use the word “we” in these posts because I truly believe this is work we are doing together.  Nothing noted above was accomplished because of me; all of it was because of the important work you all do day in and day out to make MSU better.

As I look forward to summer and next academic year, I am eager to continue working with all of you on increasing student success at MSU!