Dean of Students Joseph Greenwell, widely known as Joey, has been a ubiquitous figure around campus since his arrival eight years ago. A Kentucky native with a B.A. in music and a master’s in education from Vanderbilt University, he talks about student life.
Describe your job in the simplest terms.
I’m an advocate for students. I want to make sure that the student voice is heard throughout the University.
What inspired you to work in higher education and focus on student life?
As a student at Vanderbilt, I was involved in the orientation program, and I got to meet incoming students. I loved that interaction.
What struck you about the students at SF State when you first arrived?
Our students come from such diverse backgrounds and perspectives. We’re a microcosm of the world. It’s a place where there’s civil discourse, where students’ beliefs can be challenged, and people are able to have dialogues on world issues.
How has the student population changed in recent years?
About half the incoming students are from outside the Bay Area, so we have students on campus 24/7, which is pretty new. The average age is a little bit younger, and the expectation of what the college experience will be like is different than it was eight years ago. Many students are looking for the traditional college experience. They want to be more engaged in campus life.
Do you see more school spirit these days?
Over the last two or three years, I’ve seen increased student spirit, more students wearing their SF State gear on campus, and we hope it continues to grow.
What have you done at SF State that makes you proud?
I’m proud we have enhanced the student experience, creating Welcome Days, new student events, resources and venues.
In general, what are students most concerned with these days?
The time frame for graduation is a concern. Students want to come in, get their degree and move on to their career.
How do you help students facing challenges to stay at SF State and graduate?
Students come to me and other staff with a variety of concerns. Some might be having a hard time — they’re stressed or lonely and need someone to talk to, so we refer them to counseling. Or a student might not understand the financial aid process, so we have them talk to a financial aid counselor. We try to help them get connected on campus so they have a support network of peers.
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
I can make a positive impact on students’ lives. That’s what gets me up in the morning.
And the most challenging thing about being dean of students?
Our students have a lot going on in their lives. I listen to their stories, some of which are pretty deep. It allows me to understand what’s going on in the student’s life — and help the student understand it as well — and help get them the appropriate resources on campus. That’s challenging and rewarding.
To learn more about the many ways students are connecting with their peers through the dean of students office, visit dos.sfsu.edu
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