September 3, 2016

Dean of Students Candidate Plans to Foster Diversity, ‘Build Trust’ Between Administration and Students

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Alta Mauro, one of three candidates vying to become the University’s next Dean of Students, stressed at an open forum Friday afternoon that as dean, diversity and inclusion would be two of her highest priorities.

At the forum — where students were able to provide input on the search to replace former Dean Kent Hubbell ’69 — Mauro emphasized that helping students feel at home on campus is both “a community responsibility and a community benefit.”

“Inclusive communities allow for individuals to bring their authentic selves to campus, and to spend less time and energy trying to fit in [and] establish an identity and community,” she said. “I approach diversity and inclusion work with the utmost care and concern, with the intent to engage as wide a cross-section of a community as is possible.”

Mauro previously served as the director of intercultural education and spiritual life at New York University’s Abu Dhabi campus, where she said she “learned to operate with a deep cultural humility.”

“That [humility] would position me to hear from members of the campus community about what their needs and expectations are,” she said. “I bring a sincere interest in who students are — and who they hope to be in the world — and the ways that intentional professionals can support their growth and development.”

Mauro also shared her hope that as dean, she would be able to collaborate with Cornellians to address student needs, adding that she knew the process would be “slower [rather than] faster.”

“Building trust and understanding community need can take some time at the beginning,” she said. “But we can expect to reap the benefits of this investment of time as communities gain traction together, and begin to achieve shared goals.”

Dustin Liu ’19 raised the issue of safe spaces, asking Mauro if the University should focus on creating a hospitable atmosphere for students or challenge the idea of safe spaces.

In response to this query, Mauro said she believes that safe spaces and intellectual challenge are not “mutually exclusive” concepts.

“It’s important to engage in conversation on what the spirit of the safe space is,” she said. “[It’s] a balance of challenge and support. With support, people are able to prepare themselves to approach those new challenges.”

She added that the relationship between student advocacy and administrative action should not be a contest of wills.

“I don’t believe that it has to be ‘versus,’” she said. “There has to be a middle ground between student response and institutional commitment.”