No Need To Be A Mean Dean

Caleb Nelson

Dean of Students is a fancy name for a university’s disciplinarian. But Marita Poll, the VC of Student Affairs or Dean of Students at UMB, would not appreciate this interpretation of her job.”If we wanted to be bureaucrats, and just purely administrators, we would come up with policies and just wait for someone to violate them,” Dean Poll said in an interview before the fall semester began at UMB.”That’s the ‘Mean Dean’ approach to student affairs and Dean of Students operations. The new way of doing things, and the fast way of doing things, and the student-centered, every-one-student-matters, way of doing this is to make sure we are doing enough to educate our students so that they can respond to [the policies] we are putting in front of them.”Dean Poll does not wait behind her desk to greet visitors. She walks to the door exuding confidence and genuine concern with a firm handshake, eye contact and chatty banter. Leaning forward, folding her fingers and encouraging the use of first names, she focuses on the person she talks to. She does not re-orient her attention to ringing phones or waiving co-workers without an apology and an explanation. Her charm fits her slogan-Every One Student Matters.When asked how she would like students to perceive her office, Dean Poll explained, “If you come to the office of the Dean of Students, you’re going to feel like we really care about you as a student, that you matter, as opposed to ‘Oh yeah, what’s your student number?'”Dean Poll, who has worked Dean of Students offices from various colleges for over twenty years, spent last year-her first year with UMB-as a time of getting acclimated to how the student body at UMB functions and its unique concerns. This year, she plans to focus on being more involved.To do this she is looking into moving her office to a more visible location in the Campus Center, and wants to be available and supportive to the Student Senate, and student organizations on campus. She is also setting up a survey for students who she does not get to have regular contact with to get input from them as to what they want and need at UMB.Recently Dean Poll has been gauging student interest in a fraternity and sorority system, which she would want to be unique to UMB, she explained, not like other Greek systems she has worked with.”Being a member of a sorority myself I see the benefits, but having advised fraternities and sororities for many years I also see some of the pitfalls, so I’d love to help our University construct a Greek system that’s really more focused on all the positives I see and less on the negatives, which I think are really well-documented in the media,” said Dean Poll.The goal is to encourage an environment that fosters student success, and does not focus on authoritarian discipline, but encourages personal discipline.”We want to educate students on what we expect… Here’s the code, here’s what we’re expecting from you. Please follow it. If you don’t you’re going to have to have a conversation with us.”Education on school policies and the code of conduct is a priority at the Dean of Students office. Dean Poll is working on what she calls a Civility Series meant to inform students about the particulars of the code of conduct.A primary aspect of the Dean of Students Office at UMB is to encourage connection and community on campus in order to prevent issues that would require discipline. Besides a website and blog for keeping students up to date on what is going on in the Dean of Students Office, Dean Poll set up a Facebook account to connect with every UMB student on a more individual basis.Facebook is also a vehicle for the Dean’s virtual office hours for students who take online classes. This is all an effort to create a unique mantra for the Dean of Students office at UMB-one that emphasizes the importance of each student attending UMB.”It’s about getting away from, ‘We’re administrators, we set the policies, you need to follow them.’ It’s about ‘Let’s talk about your rights and responsibilities within our community. We want you to succeed. We are here for you,'” Dean Poll said. “In this office, if you’re a student, you’re important as soon as you walk in the door.”

Marita Poll’s blog is at, her Facebook is Umassboston Deanofstudents, and the Dean of Students website is

Marita Poll’s office hours are Tuesday from 10am to 12pm, Wednesday from 1pm to 2pm and Thursday from 3pm to 5pm. Her office is located on the fourth floor of the campus center and the phone number to call to set up an appointment with her is (617)287-5800.