On August 18, VP of Campus Life and Dean of Students, Byron Bullock, had a session with parents of new students where he explained how the Students’ Affairs division develops students.
The Dean said his job is chiefly making students become a better version of themselves during their four or five years of stay at the University. “In most schools, the DSA is seen as the chief disciplinarian. Students never wanted to see the DSA because they did not come to the DSA office unless they were in trouble. If you ask any of my current enrolled students what kind of Dean of Students that I am, I am not that kind of person.”
Before joining AUN, he envisioned the student development program to be holistic. “The students would have to be able to come to the DSA’s office, bring their issues, problems, concerns, and I’m going to be all over the campus supporting them, helping them understand that there are people on this campus that truly care about them.”
AUN students are being empowered with social and leadership skills. Students’ activities here are not discussed in terms of ‘extra-curricular’ but as ‘co-curricular’ since these activities complement the classroom learning experience.
“We take student development outside of the classroom equally seriously as their development inside of the classroom…Because truth be told, students are going to spend 60-70 percent of their time outside of the classroom. And so for us, it is very important that we take that time and develop intentionally designed activities, program and services to develop them and get them ready for the real world.”
The Dean spoke of how, under his leadership, the judicial affairs process was changed from being punitive to be corrective. He introduced the Emerging Leaders Academy program, a yearlong experience to teach leadership development skills to potential leaders, as well as the Residents Assistant program for students. As Residents Assistants, students work at the residence halls in supporting other students with all kinds of issues while also serving as role models for them. The yearly career fair in Abuja that brings in companies and graduate schools for both jobs and internships and graduate school opportunities have also grown under his leadership.
Dean Bullock said that at AUN, social experiences for the students are planned to help them connect with people who are different from themselves. “Everything we have designed is intentional. If we plan a major concert, it is intentional; we want them to have some social lives. They have to develop social skills. They have to learn to talk with people from all different walks of life.”
Besides interacting with those who are from other parts of the country, students at AUN also interact with the growing number of international students on campus. “Maybe they are going to be in a graduate school situation where they are going to have to interact with people who are from all over the world. So we have to teach those skills.”
In addition, encouraging students to join any of the registered students’ organizations as well as to participate in international conferences are yet other ways to develop their strong social skills. “We have a very active student activity program, we have over 32 clubs and organizations represented on this campus, and a very active and engaged Student Government Association. Every year in March, I travel with a group of students to New York myself to participate in the Model UN program.”
Once a month, Student Life hosts an activity called “Dinner-on-me” for fifteen students. The first students to respond to the Dean’s email will have dinner with him. Such students get firsthand information on things going on at the university, while the Dean also listens to their concerns and ideas about AUN. “It is giving me an opportunity to connect with them, to hear from them and so they can also have a relationship with me and my staff.”
If a student has not had any chance to dine with the dean there is something on his office door every day of the week. Going to his office at any time of the day, you are sure to find an inspirational quote that he changes every week. This can be a source of motivation for some. The Dean has been in student development for decades. “And there is no other business that I would rather be in than the business of developing young people to realize their dreams and aspirations in life.”
By Omorogbe Omorogiuwa