George Marquis: 'Enable Students Inside and Outside the Classroom'
To summarize George Marquis' ambitious and detailed vision for his new role as dean of students is no easy task. However, throughout all his specific plans lies one common theme: student success.
“We need to enable students to be holistically successful, both inside and outside the classroom,” said Marquis, emphasizing that recognizing “a student’s academic experience as one part of a much larger picture” is an important step toward improving the total student life experience.
The first step in this mission is, of course, identifying any issues currently impeding student success. In the United States, more than 75 percent of students who fail to complete university do so for reasons unrelated to academic performance. Fortunately, AUC has a high retention rate, which attests to the high levels of student persistence. However, occasionally, non-academic stressors can act as obstacles for students trying to succeed.
“The Office of the Dean of Students can help students if it’s a matter of seeking advice or counseling, or dealing with personal matters,” said Marquis. “If the matter is academic, I have considerable experience from my time as an associate dean in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, so I know where to send students to receive help for academic issues. In that way, our office can act as a one-stop center for student concerns.”
Furthermore, Marquis specifically emphasized the importance of giving increased engagement support to the issues that transfer or readmitted students might face, ensuring them a smooth transition into campus life, even without the experience of a first-year orientation.
In addition to handling the variety of issues that students may face, Marquis has a plethora of innovative ideas to support student success from a positive perspective. Many of these ideas center on ways to increase student engagement with the campus and its community. For example, he hopes to increase student-faculty interaction. “Students should see faculty as mentors who can help them segue into a career in the working world, whether that be academic or professional,” noted Marquis.
Moreover, Marquis hopes to see students increasingly interact with each other, and to identify groups of students who would welcome the opportunity to mix more meaningfully with other students from different backgrounds, and then create the mechanisms for this to happen.
Another of Marquis’ goals is making the campus a more attractive place to spend time and develop stronger social networks. “We want students to see the campus as more than where their classes are,” he explained. “Spending time on campus is the best way to build a social network and probably the safest space for meeting others who aren’t like you. Our office is busy planning indoor and outdoor activities that will hopefully encourage both organized and spontaneous interaction of students. Faculty-student interactions on campus are also part of our plan. Faculty are perhaps the most valuable student resource we have. Students should want to leverage this resource as best they can,” he added.
Diversity and Advocacy
One of Marquis’ main priorities is supporting minority students at AUC, emphasizing that demographic diversity, while incredibly important, is not sufficient without the accompaniment of long-term inclusivity efforts. While it is the new assistant provost for strategic enrollment management, Ahmed Tolba, who will be largely responsible for recruiting and bringing an increasingly diversified student body to campus, it is the Office of the Dean of Students that guides and supports them once they are on campus.
“We can’t just stop at achieving the goal of compositional diversity,” Marquis said. “We need to provide meaningful opportunities for collaboration and exchanges outside the classroom, and also, where it makes sense to do so, promote the infusion of diversity themes into the curriculum.” To this end, he plans to request meetings with various committees, particularly the Core Curriculum committee, to discuss how diversity themes could be better woven into a wide array of courses.
In addition to curriculum changes, Marquis notes the importance of holding events, activities and training sessions that “both celebrate diversity and also serve to educate AUC students on pertinent issues of social justice, identity and advocacy.” Moreover, his plan for the Office of the Dean of Students emphasizes increasing the diversity among student leaders so that all feel represented.
Integrating international students studying at AUC into the campus community is a central aspect of this effort toward increased diversity and advocacy. Marquis hopes to “bring international students into closer contact with Egyptian students to create more opportunities to engage with others from different backgrounds.”
Further emphasizing cross-cultural exchange, he also discussed the importance of encouraging Egyptians at AUC to study abroad, and directly supporting them in the challenges of navigating a new society or culture. Marquis sees many paths to accomplishing a more globalized perspective, including “acting as an ambassador for one's country while studying abroad, joining a global organization, delivering a talk, posting photographs that deliver a message or starting a blog.”
Overall, these efforts fit into the common vision of increased inclusivity and campus cohesiveness that accompanied Provost Sherif Sedky’s mandate to “re-imagine student life.”
In accomplishing this mission, Marquis noted that simply making changes is not enough. Rather these changes must be actively and consistently communicated to the student body. “Students need to understand the point of our goals of providing more experiences for them to interact with difference and creating a climate of inclusion. I want them to see it as needed preparation for life after AUC, entering into a professional world that is more diverse than their academic experience has been up to this point,” he added. “It is our job to communicate that to them.”