UW-Whitewater appoints interim dean of students

By Kimberly Wethal

Nov. 18, 2015

 

For associate director of University Housing Terry Tumbarello, being appointed interim dean of students on Nov. 10 was “bittersweet.”

While Tumbarello said he was appreciative UW-Whitewater faculty have taken notice of his hard work and the effort he’s put into his career, the reason for the interim position was not ideal.

“It’s been a very nice accolade, and it’s always nice when your work has been recognized and the campus has put that kind of faith in you, but this is absolutely not how I wanted this to happen,” Tumbarello said. “It was a tragedy that we lost Mary Beth Mackin, who was a dear friend of mine and a very valued colleague, and someone I had great respect for.”

Mackin died on Nov. 7 due to an undisclosed medical condition.

For the time being, Tumbarello will temporarily serve as both the dean of students in the Student Affairs office on campus, while retaining his current position in University Housing.

With part of Tumbarello’s job as associate director of University Housing, he worked closely with Mackin. Both handled cases of student conduct in residence halls, and throughout the rest of campus, respectively.

New job responsibilities

Tumbarello started on UW-W’s campus almost two decades ago as a complex director for Clem/Bigelow and the Wells Towers complexes, and then was promoted into the University Housing office where he held a range of different positions before being promoted to assistant director.

He oversees the Residence Life aspect of University Housing, a job that requires him to oversee a staff of complex directors and resident assistants (RA). He works with a multitude of campus departments that provide different types of services to students, and addresses student conduct in residence halls.

Tumbarello also leads those who organize the interactive Boxes and Walls activity held each fall semester.

University Housing Director Frank Bartlett said Tumbarello will have a wide range of experience to bring into the role due in part of his experience as associate director and a hearing officer who deals with student conduct issues.

“He’s really comfortable with what he does, and he does it very, very well,” Bartlett said.

The only difficulty of Tumbarello being the interim dean of students is time management, he said, because of his full-time position in University Housing. The amount of student conduct Tumbarello works with as the associate director, however, will allow a seamless transition into the interim dean of students position.

“I won’t in my career hold a position that doesn’t allow me to have regular contact with students,” Tumbarello said. “I don’t know how I could be effective in my position if that wasn’t the case … I love working with students. That’s why I’m here.”

‘An interesting balance’

In dealing with Mackin’s death and the celebration of life ceremony held on Nov. 11, Tumbarello and his colleagues said they haven’t really thought about how he’s going to balance all of his responsibilities between the two positions on campus.

Finding out where priorities lie between the two departments through preliminary discussions with the department staffs is a goal for this week, Tumbarello said.

One of those priorities consists of giving “good support” to the existing staff of the Student Affairs as they mourn the loss of their department’s mentor, he said.

“I’m going to have to go in there in a manner that issues support and professional development, but also recognizes that they’re grieving, and doing it in a matter that doesn’t reek of me trying to replace Mary Beth, because I’m not,” Tumbarello said. “It’s not replacing her at all; it’s about the fact that the campus has to persevere.”

In order to help balance out Tumbarello’s schedule, colleagues from both the Student Affairs office and the University Housing have stepped up in order to pick up some of the gaps in work flow created by his acceptance of the interim position.

“It’s an interesting balance,” Bartlett said. “In time it’ll all get easier, but right now it’s complicated.”

Both Bartlett and Tumbarello have seen a lot of people willing to step up in the midst of a “challenging situation” to help Tumbarello out.

“In both departments I have really good staff,” Tumbarello said. “This is going to be an opportunity for some of those staff to step up and get additional professional development. I have faith in both staffs, and know that working together as a team, we’re going to be okay.”

Keeping the status quo

As interim dean of students, Tumbarello will maintain the role without changing a lot.

Seeing that the position is defined as being interim, Tumbarello said, it isn’t in his new job description to necessarily make any changes.

Even within Tumbarello’s style of leadership, the style of work flow won’t be significantly different because he’s developed his working style similar to Mackin’s, due in part to having worked with her for years.

“A lot of who I am and how I’ve shaped as a professional are a lot of things I’ve learned from Mary Beth,” Tumbarello said.

Tumbarello says he isn’t concerned about whether or not the tasks of the interim position will be something he likes doing or not.

“I feel very privileged working in Student Affairs because I can’t say I had a job where it wasn’t the best job I ever had,” Tumbarello said. “I think it’s going to be a great opportunity for me to learn more about what it’s like to be the dean of students and I think that in itself is a gift.”