Southeast Missouri State University student publication

College of Humanities and Social Sciences dean strives for strong interconnection within college

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Melissa Odegard-Koester, the interim dean for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, said positive change has always been her goal.

“I like to be in this position because it puts me in a place where I can affect positive change for our students, faculty and our respective programs,” Koester said.

Koester said she believes it is critical to build a positive rapport with students and faculty. Although with the pandemic, meeting face-to-face is not always the easiest encounter, Koester said she has not let that stop her concern for her college or allowing students to have a voice.

“I am putting together a student advisory board for the college to get student input on how things are going in their department, their programs, or if there’s any needs or concerns they have,” Koester said.

Alongside students having a place to have input, Koester has provided opportunities for faculty to talk and connect. Some of the meetings have been virtual, but others partake in things such as a “faculty coffee check-in and chat.” Koester said she believes this is beneficial to and appreciated by the faculty.

“It allows them to connect and share challenges they’ve maybe had or their students have had and how they can come up with ideas collaboratively,” Koester said.

Koester said she has put forth the effort in facilitating the connections and building trust with faculty and students within the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Doing this, she said the positive change will continue to grow.

Koester still has students to advise despite her duties as dean. She has encouraged faculty to not treat it as just an advising meeting but as “mentoring a student that wants to excel in your discipline.”

“I tell them, ‘look, you can get what you put into this,’” Koester said. “You have me at your fingertips. I’m here, I'm not going anywhere. I’m accessible here in my office hours. If that doesn’t work, let’s schedule a time.’”

Making the effort for faculty to feel supported and invested in will ultimately trickle down and help them support the students, Koester said. With the pandemic taking a toll on many people, Koester said her job is to provide as many resources to the faculty as she can so they feel supported, leading to “less stress, less reactivity and more proactive intervening when there’s challenges that come up.”

Koester said she misses the interaction with the students while being a full-time professor but has encouraged the faculty to invite her to their classes, which has given her the same opportunity.

Koester said she will be in this position as interim dean for another year.