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Monday, March 20, 2023

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According to SDSU dean of students Randy Timm, the student campus experience is much more high tech and high touch than ever before. According to SDSU dean of students Randy Timm, the student campus experience is much more high tech and high touch than ever before.

Q & A With SDSU’s Dean of Students

What it means to be a student has undergone some major generational shifts during Randy Timm’s nearly two decades at SDSU.
By Cory Marshall

With San Diego State University President Adela de la Torre driving major institutional initiatives in support of student, faculty and staff development, and with ambitious plans for future growth, SDSU opens 2019 with increased momentum toward an expanded community impact. 

"Directions: SDSU in 2019" is a series highlighting top stories related to university research, student success and innovative programs and provides a forward-looking lens into the work of students, faculty and staff. 

Randy Timm serves as the dean of students for San Diego State University. Here, he discusses what it means to be a student in today’s higher education space. As Timm explains, universities across the country, including SDSU, are seeing students engage in ways they never did before. 

Q: Your time at SDSU dates back to the early 2000s. Since then, how has student engagement/participation changed, and what do you believe contributed to the shift?

SDSU has grown and evolved in so many ways. Today, out-of-class experiences are woven into deeper, academic learning. I see students participating in research with faculty members, developing campus programs with staff members and seeking more leadership development than ever before. Today, SDSU is a dynamic college experience and it is busy 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Programs like Aztec Nights and One SDSU changed the late night and after- class experience at SDSU, while buildings like the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union expanded places for student organizations to connect with the greater San Diego community. 

Experiential learning and hands-on approaches are important to this generation. I teach a class where students are learning the “servant leadership model” while also tutoring foster youth in the San Diego area. The program is a collaboration between the San Diego County Board of Education Foster Youth Program and the SDSU College of Education’s Leadership minor. The students gain a much deeper level of learning from the experience of “doing” rather than just hearing about the model. These types of SDSU community partnerships provide students hands-on, real-life experiences that develop intellect and skill competence.
Life on campus has also changed. Newly developed residence halls and a growing social and cultural fraternity and sorority community are creating a constant buzz of life on campus (did you know the Princeton Review ranked SDSU in the top 10 communities for providing fraternity and sorority life?) In the “newness” of everything, there is also a sense of history and renewed commitment to our values of inclusion, diversity and social equity. Our commuter center, entrepreneurship labs and cultural centers are developing deeper student relationships that last lifetimes. It is fun to watch how our recent graduates flourish across the globe. Some have been recognized in Forbes’ 30 under 30, while others are leaders working with the Boston Red Sox, with Chevron in Nigeria, Africa, and Tesla in the Bay Area.  

Q: Over the last two decades, what kind of shifts have you seen within the higher education landscape as a whole?

The student campus experience is much more high tech and high touch than ever before. In many ways, the issues facing students may be the same, but technology has changed everything. In the past, students connected in informal ways like, walking across campus, talking to people on their floor or connecting in their classes. Speed “friending” and formal ways of connecting students are more prevalent today than 20 years ago. 

The world of today’s students is much more interdisciplinary than it was when I was in college. Many of the students I see are looking into an interdisciplinary major, which allows them to combine courses from three different disciplines to create their own major. For example, students who are considering my job as a dean of students don’t have an undergraduate degree in student affairs or student development. Rather, they combine courses from leadership studies, psychology and sociology, education and cultural competency. I never had the option to create a major that addresses current industry trends. It is an incredible academic opportunity.

The role of student organizations is also changing as the out- of- class experience becomes more popular. As of December, over half of SDSU students have been part of a student life program. Today, there are over 400 organizations on campus, and they are diverse and active. While the number of SDSU student organizations has increased, they are also leading national trends in college activities.

Q: SDSU President Adela de la Torre has voiced her passion for helping cultivate global citizens. What is your definition of a global citizen?

To me, being a global citizen means we are part of an interconnected world community. It means we have to develop future citizens and scholars who will lead people and create change all around the world. This is one of the things I love about SDSU. In my classes, we hear so many different perspectives about the meaning of leadership in many different cultures. We have discussed leadership perspectives from student activists and U.S. Navy veterans; from international students and those who cross the U.S.- Mexico border daily to come to class. Cultivating global citizens means we learn to create inclusive communities, culturally competent citizens and compassionate, relational leaders.