By Tara Adhikari

Originally published on 8/26/19

New Dean of Students Maya Dietz

Changing the ocean views of Hawaii for the corn fields of Illinois, Maya Dietz, the new Dean of Students moved with her husband and two daughters into the house located next to the baseball field. Just ten days after her service as an active duty army chaplain ended, Dean Dietz faced a new set of challenges: no cell phone reception, no internet connection, no car, and baseballs flying at her house. Yet, Dietz appears happy to embrace the adventure of it all and expressed gratitude for the insight it gave her into the circumstances new students face when they first arrive on campus.

anging the ocean views of Hawaii for the corn fields of Illinois, Maya Dietz, the new Dean of Students moved with her husband and two daughters into the house located next to the baseball field. Just ten days after her service as an active duty army chaplain ended, Dean Dietz faced a new set of challenges: no cell phone reception, no internet connection, no car, and baseballs flying at her house. Yet, Dietz appears happy to embrace the adventure of it all and expressed gratitude for the insight it gave her into the circumstances new students face when they first arrive on campus.

This flexibility and adaptability served Dietz well in her former position where she provided religious counseling and religious resources to soldiers in her unit. Her more administrative duties included advising military leaders on policy decisions and creating programs that prepared soldiers for the challenges they might face in combat.

While Dietz served as a chaplain for all members of the Protestant faith — not just Christian Scientists — she thought of herself as a “practitioner for the army.” She remarked that since Christian Science has such a big conception of God, this allowed her to help people across faith spectrums.

In order to do this effectively, Dietz had to understand that everyone who came through her door came from a different moral, cultural, and religious background. Rather than thinking, “I need to make you into me,” she would ask herself, “where is this person and how do I move them forward?” On Principia’s campus, there is a wide spectrum of engagement with Christian Science; Dietz believes her experience as an army chaplain will allow her to help people “ask the right questions of themselves,” help people “see God in a bigger way,” and foster an environment where students can find their own answers.

In the last few weeks, Dietz has spent the majority of her time meeting with the Student Life team and learning about the existing programs that fall under her purview. She is not afraid to acknowledge that she has a lot to learn; in her words, “you have to be in listening mode before you can start doing anything.” Maya is no stranger to adapting to a new culture given the six years she spent working as a Foreign Service Officer for the US Department of State in Rwanda, Iraq, and Australia. In this capacity, she learned that policies are more effective and last longer when they accommodate for a variety of people and backgrounds. As Maya continues to ask whether or not the programs on Principia’s campus are accomplishing what they are intended to, she hopes to make improvements that integrate a diversity of perspectives and stakeholders.

Dietz will continue building relationships with her administrative team, and with students as they arrive on campus, soaking up as much feedback and information as she can. Trust is a fundamental component of any relationship and Dietz plans to generate this trust by “lead- ing from the front.”This leadership principle, used in the U.S. army, means that you only ask of your team what you would be willing to do yourself. Dietz hopes that this style of leadership will, over time, allow her to build interdepartmental partnerships and serve students with openness, transparency, and accountability.

Walking up the sloped path to the the campus covered in an array of Fall leaves, the Maybeck architecture — for Dr. Meggan Madden these will not be a series of firsts, but rather familiar reminders of her own memories. Principia College is where Dr. Mad- den first developed an interest in higher education. While serving on student government she enjoyed “pulling back the curtain and seeing what the administration does.”This look into the internal workings of administrative policy, as well as an internship where she was involved in recruiting for Principia, sparked Madden’s interest in the world of higher education. She now returns with a doctorate degree in higher education to her Alma mater as the new Dean of Academics, still seeking a behind-the-scenes look.

In her previous position as a professor at George Washington University, Dr. Madden taught courses in two graduate level programs: the International Education Program and the Higher Education Administration Program. Through both her teaching experience and independent research, Dr. Madden has put significant thought into how universities can improve the student experience.

During her senior year at Principia College, Dr. Madden became involved with the Admissions Marketing Program. She met with prospective college students across the country and enjoyed helping them through the college search. The internship also made her deeply consider what makes a good college and why one college fits for one student but not another. When Dr. Madden first entered the workforce, she began to notice the opportunities for improvement within higher education: “I began to see where there were gaps in how we served students. I pursued a graduate degree and then a doctoral degree because I wanted to address those gaps.”

Seeking a way to close the gaps, Dr. Madden consulted other specialists in the field, read relevant literature, and talked to students across various college campuses. Dr. Madden’s research has been published in numerous academic journals and book chapters including the Canadian Journal of Higher Education and the Encyclopedia of International Higher Education Systems.

While Dr. Madden’s current position is largely administrative, she is excited to bring this research experience to policy decisions: “I know the research that exists so we can make decisions that are evidenced based.” Throughout the year, as the Chief Academic Officer, Dr. Madden will continue to review data from students, faculty and external reviewers to determine the core areas in need of improvement within Principia. She noted that it is important to balance this assessment with an understanding of the previous efforts that have been successful in ensuring a quality academic experience for both students and faculty.

As Dr. Madden continues to acclimate to the position in the coming year, her overarching goal is to understand Principia as it is now. To do this, she hopes to meet with members of the faculty as much as possible and determine the greatest needs of students and faculty. While much has changed since Dr. Madden attended Principia as a student, she remarked that the values on which Principia was founded have remained true; This community is comprised of “thinkers” and “people who are earnestly eager to do good.” Dr. Madden hopes this will allow us to create an intellectual environment in which the entire community – students, faculty, and staff alike – can learn from one another. As numerous changes will continue to shape our campus in the coming year, the need to learn from one another is worth remembering.

Image courtesy of Nathan Brantingham