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New Dean of Students Establishes Priorities

Sept. 30, 2013

"Thirty-eight thousand students," said Tonantzin Oseguera, the new dean of students, with a smile. "That's our enrollment. And what's incredible is how much the faculty and staff truly care about the students. That's quite refreshing on a campus this size."

After only two months on campus, Oseguera is developing goals and looking for opportunities to expand and enhance services in her division.

"I have a passion for working with students," she said. "Students may need guidance, assistance, and, in some cases, redirection. For many, especially those who are the first in their families to attend college, arriving here can be intimidating. I want them to know that we are here to help.

"We also know that students sometimes make poor choices and decisions and we are here to help with that as well," she said. "Our goal is to help students become active members of the campus and get the most out of their time here."

Among her initial priorities, Oseguera hopes to add more resources in the area of student conduct, formerly known as judicial affairs.

"I want us to focus more on our role as advocates for students," she said. "We want to provide more information on student integrity and how to cope with behavioral issues. Some students are not prepared for college. We want to work with them and demonstrate how they can become scholars. Some don't know how to write papers, how to think critically, why it's wrong to cut and paste from Wikipedia. They may not know how to read a syllabus. Our goal is to work with them until they can proceed on their own."

Oseguera has empathy for students facing challenges. She is, in fact, a first-generation college student, arriving in California from Mexico when she was almost 13.

"I only knew a few words of English when I started eighth grade," she said. "But I was lucky that I'm pretty good with languages. And I had really great teachers. I also had a radio that only picked up a few stations. One of the stations was K-Earth, so I know all the oldies. The other station was KUSC — an NPR station. Carl Kasell, one of the announcers, has this very deep, slow voice and he enunciated so precisely that I was able to learn the correct pronunciation of words."

Oseguera's second priority is focusing on what she calls "students of concern." These are often students who are dealing with problems ranging from mental health issues (often depression and anxiety), alcohol and drug abuse, eating disorders and more.

"With a student body as large as ours, you're going to see some of these kinds of problems," she said. "I also want faculty and staff to know that we're available to help if they see a student experiencing these kinds of challenges. Faculty members may not know what to do. Just contact us and we'll take it from there."

Some students may be able to overcome these obstacles with help from a counselor or healthcare provider from the Student Health and Counseling Center.

"There will always be students who run into difficulties navigating through student life," said Oseguera. "Our goal is to provide appropriate resources and help. We don't want students to think dropping out is the only solution. We have programs, services, tutoring. The plan is to find out what will work best."

The third priority for Oseguera is working closely with students involved in student government, Associated Students Inc.

"I work closely with the ASI president and cabinet, making sure their goals align with university goals," she said. "It's a delight to work with these students who are usually very high achieving. They hear about student concerns and together we identify ways to solve them."

Oseguera, a former student government leader herself, sees the value in having students learn about the operations of the university.

"They see the macro level," she said. "They are represented in Academic Senate, on boards, meet with administrators. They see all the decision points to be considered.

"It's valuable to have student involvement in a variety of areas," she said. "Our goal is to work with our students to keep them active and engaged with the University."

Tags:  Campus Updates