Rutgers official engages with students
The vice chancellor of Student Affairs at the University aims to make students’ college years more than just a simple, mundane, class-to-class experience.
Felicia McGinty said her hope is to one day discover that a Rutgers student has helped cure cancer, brought peace to the Middle East or alleviated poverty as a result of feeling empowered by his or her experience at the University.
“Ideally, I believe a university experience should really transform our lives,” she said. “That transformation isn’t just about a grade you get in a course you take but that you come and are challenged academically and you grow and develop personally.”
McGinty assumed her role as vice chancellor in August 2013 in the Old Queens building, but since mid-December, she has been working out of an office in the Rutgers Student Center on the College Avenue campus.
“I was excited about it because this put me, more or less, right in the heart of the College Avenue campus and makes me more accessible to students,” she said.
The Old Queens office space proved an inaccessible location for students to take full advantage of McGinty’s open office hours on Fridays, she said.
“It has been a real benefit for the students to have greater access to the office of the vice chancellor,” she said. “And also, from my perspective, it allows me opportunities to more informally interact with students and have conversations as need be.”
Being down the hall from groups like the Rutgers University Student Association and the Rutgers University Programming Association have given McGinty a new chance to connect with student leaders and gain new insight into the needs of the student body.
McGinty said she uses her philosophy of “sidewalk deaning,” which involves an informal connection with students around campus, to better understand their motivations and concerns.
“Just going to the eateries downstairs and in and out of the building … I think the benefit is it helps me to [keep my finger on the pulse] of student concerns and … the ethos of the campus,” she said.
After McGinty moved offices, she said her new accommodations have aided in building comfortable relationship with students.
“This allowed us to create an office for the vice chancellor to have a closer proximity to the students,” she said. “As you’re aware, space is tight all over campus.”
The lack of space has introduced the issue of inadequate facilities for ethnic and cultural organizations at the University, she said.
“Space is at a premium on this campus, and it is … the number one concern for student groups and organizations and also for departments and all units across the campus,” she said. “It’s really challenging [for cultural centers].”
McGinty said these organizations are unable to offer the programs and services they want for their constituencies because of the limitations. The Asian-Pacific Islander Organization, for example, has outgrown its provided space on Livingston campus.
The high demand for and the lack of large programming space have exacerbated the growing issue. She said she would be following up on an idea for the University to provide new programming space.
“One of the ideas that [Richard L. Edwards, executive vice president of Academic Affairs,] has asked me to pursue is … creating a multi-cultural center where all of those cultural centers can be housed under one roof, and there can be ample space for them to provide their programs and services and also have some multi-use programming space,” she said.
The administration is in the process of examining possibilities for the multi-cultural center, including its location and the potential to refurbish existing facilities or the possible erection of a new building, she said.
Pavel Sokolov, president of RUSA, said he was glad to see McGinty fulfill the role of vice chancellor of Student Affairs, a position that has been vacant for the past year.
Sokolov, a Rutgers Business School senior, meets with McGinty bi-monthly and acts as the intermediary between the student body and the vice chancellor, who then connects student concerns and initiatives with members of the administration.
“From my experiences with her so far, she has been a wonderful resource,” he said. “She tells me a lot about what’s going on at the University and the problems she hears from students during open office hours.”
Sokolov said their relationship is a two-way street and that McGinty advocates for the students within the administration, meeting with high-ranking officials including University President Robert L. Barchi.
As an example of her advocacy at work, he said McGinty was instrumental in extending the add/drop period for students because of the snowstorm.
She has also been helpful in working to change Rutgers’ policies with regard to allowing transgender students to use their preferred name on Sakai and other University web services, Sokolov said.
“She’s able to directly tell [the administration] exactly what the student opinion is,” he said. “It’s been quite successful.”
Sokolov said the feedback he gets from McGinty is essential, and her connection to the administration is invaluable to RUSA and the student body at large.
“We advocate on behalf of the students to the administration,” he said.
Megan Mastrobattista, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said she had not heard about McGinty’s arrival on campus, but that she appreciates McGinty’s philosophy toward her position.
“She should take advice from the students because we’re the ones that know what’s happening on this campus,” she said. “She’s the one who can help improve things.”