Loyola Still Searching for New Dean of Students as School Year Begins

With the first week of classes underway, Loyola is without two key administrative positions.

With the 2017-18 school year underway, two important administrative positions at Loyola remain unfilled.

The position of chancellor, a largely ceremonial office at many universities involved with fundraising and promotion, is traditionally held by former Loyola presidents. It was left unfilled when the Rev. Michael Garanzini, S.J. accepted a visiting faculty position at Fordham University in New York in July.

Senior Vice President for Administrative Services Thomas Kelly said the university has no plans to fill the position, which has only been occupied three times in Loyola’s history. Garanzini served as president from 2001-2015 and was known for expanding Loyola’s study abroad programs, creating new opportunities in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City and the university’s Beijing Center.

The last chancellor was former Loyola President John H. Reinke, S.J., who served from 1975-86 after the Rev. James Maguire, S.J. held the position for five years.

Loyola was left without a dean of students and assistant vice president when Dr. K.C. Mmeje left the university to serve as vice president for student affairs at Southern Methodist University in Dallas in June 2017.

As dean of students, Mmeje planned strategy and oversaw student life and engagement at Loyola, managing numerous departments including Student Activities and Greek Affairs (SAGA), Student Leadership Development (SLD), Student Diversity and Multicultural Student Affairs (SDMA) and the Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution (OSCCR), said Vice President for Student Development Jane Neufeld in an email to The PHOENIX.

“[Mmeje] was a high-profile and dynamic leader, so his absence is felt, especially by his staff,” Neufeld wrote.

Joe Saucedo, director of SDMA, said in an email to The PHOENIX that Mmeje will be especially missed by the young African-American men he mentored at Loyola’s Brothers of Excellence Program, where he worked one-on-one with first-generation college students of color.

“[Mmeje] was very honest with sharing his narrative as a first-generation college graduate and being African American in historically white institutions,” Saucedo said. “His openness allowed for students to relate to his story and feel that they, too, belonged at Loyola.

The offices of SAGA, OSCCR and SLD did not respond to requests for comment at the time of publication.

Mmeje’s role has been filled in the interim by Deb Schmidt-Rogers, assistant vice president and director of Residence Life, as Mmeje’s former office searches for a replacement.

Schmidt-Rogers said while Mmeje’s departure was felt by the administration, she is confident the office of the Dean of Students will be adequately prepared to serve students’ needs until a replacement can be found.

“The current staff … are all prepared and ready to welcome the class of 2021, returning and transfer students,” Schmidt-Rogers wrote in an email to The PHOENIX. “They are eager to have a new [dean of students] in place, but feel confident that students will continue to be fully supported until that happens.”

Schmidt-Rogers has been splitting her time between her primary position at Residence Life and her interim role filling Mmeje’s shoes, but the increased workload has been manageable, she said.

“I am fortunate to work with professionals who understand that my time is more scheduled these days, and they try to make sure I know the important things and that the work is being done,” Schmidt-Rogers said.

Neufeld said she hopes to find a replacement by mid-semester and that there will be opportunities for students to meet potential candidates on campus during the semester.

“The ideal candidate is someone with eight to 10 years experience in the field of student development; a seasoned student affairs professional familiar with all aspects of our division,” Neufeld wrote. “It’s essential that they have an understanding and appreciation for our Jesuit, Catholic identity and how our mission may influence their work.”

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