Jennings steps into new role as dean

Noah Brown

SDSU has created a new position, the Dean of Students, to serve as a resource to students across campus, especially those who are struggling both academically and behaviorally.

Dr. Sam Jennings II was hired to fulfill the position after previously serving more than 11 years as Director of Student Development at Northwest Missouri State University.

“I really enjoyed my former position, but I was looking for another professional challenge,” Jennings said. “SDSU rose to the top of my list.”

Jennings’ primary role on campus is to serve as the student ombudsman for the university.

An ombudsman acts as a sort of mediator that works with students who are experiencing difficulties with behavior, both inside and outside of the classroom. The largest goal of the position is to reach out to students who need help before poor decisions lead to major consequences.

“If a student has some kind of issue before they get into real trouble, then hopefully I can help them out,” Jennings said.

This applies to students who have had extended absences from class due to an extenuating circumstance, whether illness, a personal family emergency or something else.

Jennings says that ideally problems can be solved through a student’s academic adviser or a counselor, but in rare cases he will serve as a mentor to students who are in very hard situations in order to help them find a path to a solution.

Beyond his responsibilities as ombudsman, Jennings oversees the Student Conduct System. The system deals with everything from vandalism of dorm bathrooms to violating the drug and alcohol policy.

Jennings works on the committee called Choices and Prevention (CAP), formerly known as the Alcohol and Drug Education Task Force. The committee aims to increase awareness of the dangers of an array of choices, good and bad, that college students make every day. Alcohol is a particular focus of the group.

“Alcohol is a big part of the collegiate scene across the country,” Jennings said. “We want students to make better choices than getting themselves hurt.”

The group hopes to influence conversation on topics ranging from binge drinking to seat belt use through campaigns designed to inspire unity among students. The idea is to remind students of the multitude of choices that are made each day instead of focusing on one particular subject.

“It’s not fair to try to prioritize what’s most important for students to do first,” Jennings said. He added that issues like sexual assault deserve attention at all times, not just for one week of the year.

Jennings is also working on some special projects in conjunction with the Division of Student Affairs. He works to represent Student Affairs on the Interfaith Council to ensure students can pursue whatever spirituality or religion they might want, while also ensuring that church and State remain meaningfully separated.

Jennings is also in charge of the Summer Bridge program that affords a select group of incoming freshmen a five-week crash course in college life and skills. This year the program had 17 participants.

The funding for the position comes from a restructuring of Student Affairs. Some positions in the division were eliminated, while others were renamed.

Jennings looks forward to the unexpected challenges and problems that come with working on a campus with over 12,000 undergraduate students. In fact, he would not have it any other way.

“Some folks like to know what they are doing every day, have it laid out for them,” Jennings said. “I like a little bit of the curveballs. I enjoy it. I like the different flavor it brings.”