Mary-Beth Cooper: studying
As RIT's primary
student advocate, Mary-Beth Cooper exemplifies her theme for this
year: Students Matter.
Cooper, the new vice
president for student affairs, will take a close look at programs
of the Division of Student Affairs, assessing how well they meet
student needs and whether they remain relevant for an ever-evolving
To stay current with
what students are thinking and where they find roadblocks on the
journey to academic success, Cooper takes classes.
She's been a student
at almost every school where she's worked. At Michigan State
University, where she earned a Ph.D. in college and university
administration, she was a residential director. At the University
of Georgia, while working in residential life, she earned a master's
in education. Most recently, while dean of students at the University
of Rochester, she picked up an MBA. The only exception was when
she was dean of students and chief of student affairs at St. John
Fisher College in Rochester.
with students helps me understand what it's like to be a
student on a campus at that particular time in the institution's
history. Simple things like registering for class to trying to
get a cup of coffee after class gets me closer to what students
are experiencing, she says. If we are not careful,
administrators can become isolated from the student experience.
At RIT, Cooper is enrolled
in the deaf studies certificate program at NTID. The six-course
program is an ideal foray into student life, she says. Cooper
is discovering that understanding deaf students is a lot more
than just learning sign language. Knowledge of deaf culture and
history is as important as language.
Class time is one way
to interact with students. She also connects with students through
monthly dinners at her home and Thursday drop-in office hours.
Increasing student representation on university committees is
another way to get feedback on how RIT can better meet their needs.
Also on Cooper's
agenda for the coming year is a close look at programs designed
to ease first-year students' transition to college life.
But first-year students aren't her only concern.
I want to understand
the RIT student experience all the way from orientation to commencement,
she says. How can we make that experience more satisfying
By going out of her
way to maintain student contact and communication, she's
become more than just an administrator.
Dr. Cooper is
my friend, says Student Government President Erick Littleford.
In the sea of faces, acquaintances, colleagues, and peers,
she comes across as a loyal and supportive friend.