The end of this academic year also marks the end of LSA Dean Andrew Martin’s first year at the University.
Martin, who previously held a vice dean position at Washington University in St. Louis, was appointed last April by the University’s Board of Regents for a five-year term.
In his first year on campus, Martin has devoted significant focus on the connection between students and administrators. Martin additionally wants to help students in majors with less clear paths find careers in which they can use their degrees and dissolve negative connotations about these majors.
“It’s part of our responsibility as institutional leaders to push back against some of the negative (of being in LSA),” Martin said at a March event.
As part of his push to connect with students, Martin has hosted a series of town halls throughout the year, meeting with students monthly for informal open discussions. Students raised a whole host of topics during the forums, including adding a journalism major, dual degrees between the Ford School of Public Policy and LSA, student support and connecting students with alumni in their fields.
Martin’s office was unable to provide an interview with the dean for this article.But, during his March town hall, he said he hosted the events to give students the chance to speak directly with him and ask questions about anything they might see as an issue in LSA.
“I’m interested in hearing what you have to say and answering questions for you all,” Martin said.
A second component of Martin’s student engagement efforts has been the Dean’s Ambassadors program, launched earlier this year. The program involves students throughout LSA aim to bridge the gap between the dean’s office and students on specific issues. The group is currently composed of 11 students.
In the first full semester of the program, ambassadors have started reaching out to the student body to finalize specific priority areas.
“What we’re going to be working on over the next few years is how to make that student experience better,” Martin said during a March town hall.
LSA junior Jordan Yob, one of the ambassadors in the program who is the Daily Business Staff’s marketing coordinator, said the goal is to increase communication between the dean’s office and students beyond what’s existed in the past.
“His whole thing is that he is the dean of the students. He really wants to be involved in student conversations,” Yob said. “I think personally the transition from the old dean to the new dean, there’s definitely been a change — I think it’s going to be great for students, I think that we’re going to be able to have our voice heard by the administration and by the college and that’s really positive for us as a student body.”
LSA senior Kendall Johnson, another ambassador, said the program will pick up speed in the fall as ambassadors connect with different student organizations on campus.
“Each ambassador is a delegate to different student orgs, so starting in the fall they will be talking to these different groups about their concerns, and letting them know what resources we have available for them,” Johnson said.
Martin’s focus on building connections has also extended to several University programs. During his town halls, he identified both the LSA internship network and the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program as opportunities for increased student engagement. Martin noted that students often lack knowledge of these resources on campus.
“One of the things that I’ve learned since I’ve gotten to campus is that almost every time I talk to a student they say ‘I was talking to a friend of mine at another university and I was thinking wouldn’t it be great if we could do X here at the University of Michigan?’ ” Martin said during his March town hall. “Almost invariably, we do X somewhere at the University, the challenge is trying to connect the student to the particular interest with whatever the particular program is.”
International Internship Liaison Rachael Criso wrote in an e-mail interview that Martin has been supportive of the program, attending events and actively discussing its mission with administrators and students.
“Through his message, students learn about the opportunities that are available and also learn that they will be supported and guided through their individual work experiences abroad,” Criso wrote.
Along with outreach and engagement, Martin has also worked with LSA student government on several issues related to student life.
A November town hall, Martin addressed student concerns with disparities related to socioeconomic status and race at the University. Martin said that he wants to work toward creating more inclusive communities in the classroom.
In March, Martin further identified the area as one that is seeing additional focus from his office.
“We’re working on a couple of different things that are all sort of broadly defined in what I would call the student support area,” Martin said.
LSA senior Natasha Dabrowski, former LSA student government president, wrote in an e-mail interview that Martin was instrumental in beginning plans to review the Race and Ethnicity Requirement through LSA SG’s curriculum committee.
“He’s also placed an emphasis on promoting diversity, increasing access to a high-quality education, and being more active in the arena of student life concerns,” Dabrowski wrote.
The dean has also worked with LSA SG on forming the town halls and strengthening student support on campus.
Overall, Dabrowski said in his first year, Martin has made a noticeable push to focus more on student voice.
“He has made a tangible effort to actively reach out to students and hear their concerns,” Dabrowski wrote. “Transitions are not often seamless, however Dean Martin has been doing an excellent job at trying to assess the needs and desires of students in the college to create a positive impact during his tenure.”