Student Affairs witnesses staff turnover

Student Affairs witnesses staff turnover
A graph shows the hierarchical structure of the Division of Student Affairs. Graphic by Abbey Stegenga. 

The Division of Student Affairs has experienced a number of job vacancies over the past year, which has led to an almost entirely new staff this fall.

According to Interim Provost Joel Johnson, Student Affairs performs a significant amount of work over the summer months to prepare for the following school year. Having vacant positions in the division causes a lull in that process.

Student Affairs consists of four offices: Dean of Students, Housing and Residence Life, Student Engagement and Recreational Services. Johnson oversees Academic Affairs and Student Affairs and is responsible for the integration of the two.

“As we look at the well-being model, the Division of Student Affairs really looks to hit on all aspects of well-being and that we are ensuring that students are taking care of themselves and their total well-being,” Beth Elam, associate dean of students and Title IX coordinator, said.  

The division was back to being fully staffed by August 2023, with a host of fresh faces and ideas.

“If you don’t have everyone you need on your team, things take a little longer or there are more questions,” Johnson said. “This has been the summer of building, of hiring or improving procedures, so setting a good foundation for this year,” Johnson said.  

The International Programs Office has also seen recent leadership changes. Read more about the transition.

Dean of Students

Checka Leinwall was named interim dean of students when former Dean Mark Blackburn went on professional development leave in February 2023.

Leinwall now continues as the acting dean of students after Blackburn resigned from Augustana this past summer.

Leinwall said she was appointed interim dean because of her direct and supervisory experience with every office in the Division of Student Affairs. Throughout her professional career, she has worked in the Dean of Students Office, housing, residence life, student engagement and health and counseling at different universities.

“There’s a lot of moving parts and there’s a need for someone to just kind of be the glue that’s holding that together,” Leinwall said.

Within the Dean of Students Office, Leinwall oversees Elam, Whitney Jibben, assistant dean of students for community standards, Angie Hummel, mental health and wellness specialist, and Dee Thiele, administrative support and housing operations coordinator.

Checka Leinwall, Beth Elam and Whitney Jibben

Jibben leads the Office of Responsibility and Community Standards and oversees student conduct. Jibben took on the position in 2023 after serving as Augustana’s assistant director of facility services. She replaced Jeff Venekamp, who left Augustana in August 2022 after working at the university for more than 18 years.

Over the summer, Jibben and Leinwall revised the Student Code of Conduct.

“[Jibben] has really done a great job of bringing a lot of restorative justice and equity to the conduct process,” Leinwall said.

Hummel switched from a position in the Student Success Center to Augustana’s mental health and wellness specialist in late August 2023 after Mariah Mogck announced her resignation this past June.

“[Hummel] is a licensed therapist, so she will continue with the vision of that program which is prevention programming and education and a more holistic view on mental health resources,” Elam said.

Hummel said she wants to combat the stereotypes surrounding mental health and encourage students to take advantage of the free, unlimited counseling services offered at Sioux Falls Psychological Services.

“I think the broad-based goals are continuing the conversation that our community has been having around mental and emotional health…but then cultivating some action steps,” Hummel said.

Dee Thiele and Angie Hummel

Thiele began her role in the Division of Student Affairs in August. Prior to Thiele, Rachel Rohrbach was the administrative assistant for the division until May 2023.

“What takes up the most time right now is my email, getting the Amail out every week and also the weekly newsletter,” Thiele said.

Thiele wants students to feel comfortable coming to her with questions and problems, so she can guide them to the resources they need.

“Just feel free to come to this office and if I don’t know the answer, I’ll find who they need to go to,” Thiele said.

Housing and Residence Life

Daniel Sandberg joined Augustana in August 2022 as the director of Residence Life. Over the summer, Sandberg also assumed the responsibilities of housing director after Jenna Bump resigned in May.

As director of residence life and housing, Sandberg oversees hall directors and viking advisers, residence hall programming and the administration of the housing software, which Thiele co-administers.

“One of our biggest goals that we’ve had since I started was getting fully staffed. Having a full staff of hall directors enables us to be more responsive, more available, present and accessible to students,” Sandberg said.

Daniel Sandberg and Maggie McMahon

Sandberg and Maggie McMahon, the newly promoted assistant director for Residence Life, hired four hall directors before the beginning of this semester. Before their hiring, Sandberg and McMahon had to step in as hall directors for Granskou and Stavig.

“That’s hard. Inevitably it pulls you in a second direction and away from your central, nuclear kind of responsibilities,” Sandberg said.

Student Engagement 

Student Engagement advises and supports student organizations and service opportunities.

Nathan McQuinn took on the director of Student Engagement position in June 2023. Michelle Harvey was director of Student Engagement for roughly three years before she resigned in December 2022.

“I’m kind of looking over student organizations, service learnings, including [Serving and Learning Together] and the campus cupboard, and looking at establishing a leadership development program for students at Augie,” McQuinn said.

Additionally, McQuinn oversees Randi Maiers, assistant director of Student Engagement. Maiers acts as the adviser for Welcome Week, Viking Days and the Union Board of Governors. She also assists with Student Engagement initiatives and marketing.

Nathan McQuinn and Randi Maiers

Kally Jorgensen was the former assistant director for three years before she became the catering manager for Sodexo in September 2022.

Prior to McQuinn and Maiers’ arrival, the majority of student organizations were left without a primary adviser for four months. Interim adviser roles were split between Elam, Jibben and Sandberg.

According to junior Bryn Stumo, Welcome Week co-chair, planning for freshman orientation was a daunting task without an adviser. She and Angie Barrientos, Welcome Week co-chair, had to make decisions usually made by their adviser.

“We didn’t really have a timeline of when or who was coming into the Student Engagement role,” Stumo said. “There is a lot to be done right away when it comes to finding committee members and establishing the core parts of welcome week and it was difficult to find staff members who could help us do those things.”

The co-chairs did meet with Sandberg for planning but were unsure of what the next steps looked like for an event of this size, Stumo said.

Maiers began working at Augustana in April 2023 and immediately got involved.

“We tried to get her acclimated and involved with our planning process as soon as possible,” Stumo said. “She has so much valuable knowledge and we wanted her to be on our team desperately.”

The Student Affairs suite resides on the second floor of the Morrison Commons. Within the suite, students can locate the offices of Elam, Hummel, Leinwall, McQuinn, Sandberg and Thiele.  

“[Student Affairs] does a great job overall in so many different aspects of this campus, and they don’t get enough credit,” Johnson said. “Sometimes it’s unsung work, but if they weren’t doing their jobs, we would know about it in a hurry.”