By: Haley Hersey, News Editor
The University of Southern Maine (USM) has created and filled a new position titled Vice Provost for Student Affairs. Damian Medina, ailing from Texas, has been hired for the position. As of September 15, Medina has been active in his role.
The job description for Vice Provost of Student Affairs is, “Under the direction of the Provost, the Vice Provost for Student Affairs will have oversight in planning, developing, implementing, and advising on programs, services, activities, and processes for students in their life at the university, including student conduct and community standards, identity-based experiences, sexual violence, Title IX, leadership development, intercultural student affairs, student government, student organizations, disability services, health & counseling services, residence life and housing, veteran services and other student resource areas. The Vice Provost will be responsible for helping to realize the full potential of a combined academic and student affairs division, including integrating learning opportunities across the student experience in alignment with USM’s academic vision and strategic plan.”
The search began in early June and concluded in August. A search committee was composed of Associate Vice President for Equity, Inclusion, and Community Impact Idella Glenn; Director of Housing and Residential Life Christina Lowery; Coordinator of Student Engagement & Leadership Jill Beuning; Leadership Studies Department Chair & Associate Professor Dan Jenkins and Academic Advisor Lynsey Thibeault. Between August 9 and 20, five candidates were brought on tours of the USM campuses.
As for her thoughts on the new Vice Provost of Student Affairs, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs Jeannine Diddle Uzzi said, “He’s really fun, He’s got a ton of energy. He’s awesome at thinking outside the box. He has spent more than 15 years, I believe, between 10 and 20 years in global contexts. He has never had the luxury of having an experienced University team. He has always been building his own team at an international school. What this has taught him is to be very creative. I have found he has a unique perspective on student affairs.”
“I personally called all of the candidates references because I thought this position was so important,” said Uzzi. She said Medina’s references said he can take student development theory (programming residence halls, teaching etc.) and translate for today’s modern diverse communities. “I just thought, we need the person who is ready for the students USM has today, not the students USM had 30 years ago.”
Damian Medina has been to 64 countries and territories on six continents, where he has immersed himself in their cultures. He enjoys bicycling, hiking, backpacking, Broadway shows and board games. As someone who does not drink coffee, Medina said people often question where all his energy comes from. Being around people, especially students, is what energizes him. For the last 13 years, he has been working abroad. His last position was the Assistant Dean for Student Affairs at Duke Kunshan University (DKU) in China.
Medina is a big believer in the golden and platinum rules. He explained the golden rule is to treat others the way you want to be treated, but the platinum rule is to treat others the way they want to be treated.
He said, “I think sometimes, we live in our own bubble. That’s what a university does, it breaks that bubble.”
Having moved to Maine recently, Medina said, “The vibe of Portland is a conglomerate of mini multiple cities in one. The food scene is amazing.”
One of the first things Medina wants to start at USM is a weekly Dinner Chat with the Vice Provost of Student Affairs in Brooks Dining Hall. Residential and commuter students will be welcome to join Medina for dinner and to talk. The meals will be during regular dining hall hours, but students are responsible for their meals if they attend. Essentially, he plans to find a large table and eat once a week and welcome students to join him.
“Regardless of how busy my schedule is, I want to make myself available to the students,” said Medina. “I want to make sure students feel they have an ability to reach one of the campus leaders.”
In addition to these open dinners, he plans on setting up monthly themed meetings that will cater to various groups of students such as athletes, commuters, student group leaders, etc. Medina will reach out to advisors, provide food and have open discussions with students about their concerns.
“This is my passion, right, working with students. When I saw this job description, I saw ‘Student Focused Everyday.’ I had never really seen that focus like I had here,” said Medina. “Then I get here, and it’s just confirming my passion. Knowing that USM really caters to students’ needs – coming from a background that isn’t privileged, that resonated with me.”
Medina implores students to ask themselves, “When you leave USM, are you a better person than when you came in?” His goal is to help students to be prepared for being global citizens when they leave USM. “I challenge every student to truly embrace USM in every aspect for everything it offers. USM is only going to get better if the students get involved.”
“The minute he got here he was headed out to student events,” said Uzzi. “We’re very fortunate to have him.”
The Vice Provost of Student Affairs, Damian Medina, can be reached by email at [email protected]