Columbia College Dean for Student Affairs Dave Roberts
(Photo by Kaci Smart)

Over the past six years, Dave Roberts has watched the momentum build on Columbia College’s main campus.

He worked as assistant, then associate dean for Student Affairs as the R. Marvin Owens Field renovations and Brouder Science Center construction took place, enhancing student life on campus. Then came President Scott Dalrymple’s push for the Quad and other student-friendly improvements such as hammocks, a fire pit and a sand volleyball court. The Day Campus in Columbia has seen solid growth over the past two years, and the college announced plans for a new Academic and Residence Hall that is scheduled to be completed in 2019.

Roberts took over for longtime Dean for Student Affairs Faye Burchard upon her retirement in January and his interim tag was removed in May after a national search. His first full semester as dean started Monday, August 28.

“It’s exciting and terrifying all at the same time,” Roberts said, with a laugh. “We’re at a really exciting time at Columbia College.”

Roberts worked with students at the University of South Florida, Southern Methodist University and the University of Missouri before coming to Columbia College in 2011. As he navigates his first months heading the college’s Student Affairs division, Roberts is keying in on the staff combinations and program offerings that will keep his team performing at a high level.

As always, the students come first.

“When you’re sitting here for six years, you see things. You read the tea leaves,” Roberts said. “I’ve been watching, waiting and had these ideas, and now I have the ability to make these happen and use these as strategic directions for the division.”

Learn more about Roberts and his vision for Student Affairs in the latest CC Focus!

CCC: How has your role changed from associate dean for Student Affairs to dean?

DR: Some of the bigger changes for me are being the face of Student Affairs, in a new way. Before, I was the person running around dealing with crises behind the scenes. I see being out there as a really important part of my role: how I represent our division to the campus, how I represent what we do to support students to the students, and then how we engage in the community. I want Columbia, MO, to know why it’s so meaningful to the community to have a college like ours.

CCC: Why did you decide to come to Columbia College?

DR: I was looking for an opportunity to do something new in student affairs. I had my master’s in student affairs — and I’m right now pursuing my doctorate in higher education leadership — so, for me, this was a great leadership role. However, getting here, I really fell in love with this place. My day isn’t confined to one topic or one job. I get to do a lot of things and work with a lot of people. I get to know people across campus and across the country at our Nationwide locations. I like that piece of it. The role at first was what drew me in, but then the intricacies of who we are as an institution.

CCC: How do you see yourself shaping the division?

DR: Leadership education is something that really rings home to me in my background. Part of the new senior coordinator’s job within leadership development is to create online webinars and videos for us to provide not only to day students, but to nationwide and online students. In conjunction with Career Services, we’re hearing from employers that the stuff that matters the most is the soft skills they bring to the job. So some of those soft skills in terms of leadership, communication and strategic planning is something we’re really trying to emphasize. I’d also like us to have a greater commitment to social justice issues, and being able to provide support for marginalized students on our campus, whether that’s students of color, LGBTQIA students or other groups. My hope is that, over time, we create a resource office on campus for students that can help be the voice of those students. I’d also like to see us grow our connections to Career Services. I think they bring a lot of value in terms of information that can be shared, not only with students but also with faculty members on what trends are coming in careers.

CCC: How big of an impact will the new Academic and Residence Hall make on campus life?

DR: It’s going to be huge! We have great residence hall facilities, we have a great facilities staff that keeps up with them, but they’re older residence halls. I think it helps breathe new life into the campus, when you have a nice, new building and students get really excited about a new place to live. The location is ideal, and there’s a great community building space in the hall and also a great connection to the business school. I’ve already had sophomores emailing me, asking me to put them on the list to live there on the top floor, so they can overlook the soccer field. The students have been very excited about it. I’m really trying to be intentional about giving them the opportunity to have some input on the hall as it relates to the style of furnishings and design elements.

CCC: How is your staff coming together?

DR: I’m really excited and proud of our staff, both professional and student staff. We have a great team, they do a ton to support students. They’re some of the hardest-working people on campus. The students’ success is our success. Our staff does that as good, if not better, than any other Student Affairs divisions out there.