Over the summer, Joan Maze was hired as Macalester’s first Director of Campus Activities and Operations. Maze’s duties include what was formerly known as Campus Programs as well as general operations of the Campus Center. The Mac Weekly sat down with Maze to introduce her and and learn about her new position. Editor’s note: This piece has been edited for length.
The Mac Weekly: To start off, can you describe what your position and daily routine or job looks like so far?
Joan Maze: My daily routine is dependent on what gets thrown at me. Right now, what it seems to be: A lot of meetings. Our staff is very well versed in their jobs. They do a lot of the frontline work; working directly with student organizations and are very good at their jobs. So I supervise all of them. My major responsibility is to provide them with the support, the resources and the information they need to get their jobs done. I do like to focus much of my time working with them, finding out what their projects are, and providing professional development. So making sure they are getting what they need out of their positions.
Also, working with student organizations. The Campus Activities Office’s purpose is to provide a life outside of the classroom. That comes in a number of ways. We do leadership programs, trainings, workshops and conferences. We provide advising to [student] organizations. I think students learn a lot about themselves in their organizations while they are living outside of the classrooms. We are here to handle all that. I also meet with students individually and talk about how to develop a program, or come up with a new idea.
TMW: What has been your experience coming into this newly-created position and working with an already-formed team?
JM: My experience here has been one where everyone has been very welcoming and supportive with answering questions about how things are done at Macalester. I previously worked at several larger public schools, so it is a very different atmosphere from a small private school.
The staff have helped me in several ways. I have actually gone out with them when they’re training students and seen what students do. This summer I worked with conference staff and helped them set beds and figure out what they do. I spent some time at the Info Desk. They showed me the reservations system, where everything is. Our Operations Manager, Mark [Bechtel], took me around to all the spaces and showed me how to use all the tech. [laughter] That’s how I learn. I learn by seeing things happen and asking questions. Basically that’s how I’ve been catching up. Each of the staff has shared with me what they do and how things go at Macalester. That’s helped me figure out where I fit in and what I contribute in this merger of these departments.
TMW: What has been the biggest challenge in your time so far?
JM: I think right now the most challenging thing is trying to find out what my normal will be. Because there’s been lot of meetings. That takes up time, and there are things that I’m easing into. For example, Orientation is a part of what CAO is responsible for. This year, Robin Hart Ruthenbeck, who had done it in the past, continued to do it and I shadowed her to see how it happened. But they didn’t just go: ‘Here’s Orientation: Do it!’ So that’s been the most challenging, because I am not doing everything I am responsible for yet. And so I meet with staff and get up to date on how things run at Macalester, but I still need to do work at Macalester. But I think it will take a while because I’m not used to having so many meetings back to back.
TMW: Could you talk more about your background in student affairs and within higher education?
JM: I have been in higher education for about 17 years now. I think my first official position was in 1997. I started off in residential life and then moved into student activities and programming. I did leadership development. And then in my last position, I did multicultural affairs, so I was Director of African American Student Development at Towson University. And there, I worked with the African American student population, specifically advising student organizations, cultural programming, that type of thing. But then I did a lot of work and training on diversity issues, cultural competency and social justice.
TMW: How would you like to see the new CAO develop?
JM: I think the main focus I want out there is going beyond what students normally perceive as the job of Campus Activities and particularly how they view leadership development. I think students often think that leadership is about having a position in an organization and being responsible, or being sort of a charismatic out-there-in-front kind of person. Truly, leadership is a process, not a position. And so I want them, the students here, to realize that whatever we do here, be it Las Vegas Night, an ice cream event or a leadership program — all of these things contribute to their development as a full person. And just for new students coming to campus, you get to do that in an area where you have all these resources supporting you. That’s what I hope my long-term vision for the department is. Everything we do here is for a purpose.
TMW: Out of all the options, any place you could have gone, why Macalester?
JM: Why Macalester? So, I was looking for a position where I could get back into the larger scale of campus activities. It’s just what I love to do. Like I’ve said, I’ve done a lot of very specific areas, but I think leadership development and activities are the places where I think I excel at working with students.
When I came to visit, I just got a really good feeling about Macalester. Because the staff was so supportive. They were very kind, authentic … what I got from the folks who worked here was there was a genuine interest in providing for the students. And that there were values that were clearly stated: everyone bought into and adhered to them.
Then I met the students, and I have to say, I was impressed just by their thoughtfulness. I was impressed by their engagement in the process, the questions they asked, and the way they answered my questions. It showed me that they had been given an experience at Macalester that really and truly challenged them and made them think. And I wanted to be a part of that.
TMW: What has been your favorite moment at Macalester?
JM: I would have to say it was the Welcome to Your Life At Mac celebration at Orientation. Just because it seemed like, to me, it was just a culmination of the hard work of the Orientation staff and Leaders up to that point. And seeing them put it all out there, and then also at the end when the students shared their personal statements, I thought that was truly brave and something that I had not seen at any other university. That they would encourage students to get on stage and be so vulnerable. Particularly with things that were not so rosy.
At Orientation we are so, ‘Oh, we just want them to love it here.’ And you can love it, but you also have to acknowledge that some people are going to have a harder time. And at the end of that program, with those statements, students were able to connect with students and realize: We’re not here selling you a la-la-land version of what college is going to be like. We’re here to connect you, to grow with you, and we’re going to be here. And I really love that.