Jeanne Rosenberger: Crafting the Student Experience
Jeanne Rosenberger is the Vice Provost for Student Life at Santa Clara. She oversees a large staff that touches many aspects of the student experience including Cowell Health, Career Center, Residence Life, Student Involvement and Campus Recreation Office for Multicultural, Learning, Office of Disabilities Resources and Benson Memorial Center.
Rosenberger has been at Santa Clara since 1991, and we get into how Santa Clara has changed in the past 25 years, as well as the best and most challenging parts of her job, and what changes she hopes for at Santa Clara in terms of working together to amplify student voices. She also briefly touches on the decision to allow the student organization Turning Point to start at Santa Clara as well as the difficulties with alcohol use in the student body.
Selected Interview Highlights
Gavin Cosgrave: How has Santa Clara changed since you started working here in 1991?
Jeanne Rosenberger: There’s funny things, like that El Camino used to run between Benson and the Learning Commons. You would literally take your life in your hands crossing the street between the library and Benson.
Once the University worked with the city to reroute El Camino, California went into a drought and they couldn’t do any landscaping. Once they closed the road, it was still a street, just without cars.
Students didn’t have class on Wednesdays either. That changed the social scene quite dramatically.
GC: How do you think about students balancing extra-curricular involvement with school?
JR: Students used to come to Santa Clara, see all the opportunities, select something they were passionate about and focus on that. It might have been student government, being a CF or working for the radio station. Students would pick one or two things to do that defined their time here.
Now students are doing 25 things: internships, student involvement, going to class, working, filling every moment of time. That’s not a criticism as much as an observation. Students sometimes don’t say no. Then there’s a layer of competition, working on your resume and getting yourself set for life after Santa Clara. Definitely try new things, but you don’t have to try everything.
GC: Do you think it’s a problem that students are overinvolved?
JR: I don’t know about a problem; many student know themselves well enough to be successful in class. Where I fear is that this might be the only four years where young people to pause and think critically about who they are, who they want to become, and how they want to be in relationship with other people. When you’re totally programmed you don’t have as much time to think and be curious and try new things.
GC: You have so many different divisions under you (like Cowell, Career Center, Residence Life, Student Involvement and Campus Recreation). Do any of those take up more of your time or energy?
JR: Always in the back of my mind are physical and mental health. Everything from use of drugs to depression and anxiety, and making sure we have the right resources and enough resources.
For the second area, we really hope students understand the link between nutrition, exercise, wellness and academic success. We only have two staff in Campus Recreation and we have about 1400 students a day using just the Malley Center. A lot of my attention of late has been getting the word out about what a gold mine it is for the campus. We’ve seen some success like the new weight room equipment and the new functional fitness behind the library.
The third area is the career center, which is bursting at the seams at interest from employers to hire our students. Yesterday, we heard that 457 employers hired at least one student from last year’s class. The interest in Santa Clara graduates is exploding, but the challenge is that our physical space isn’t growing, and the staff hasn’t expanded.
GC: What are the best parts of your job?
JR: Some of best experiences in my time here have been working with students to develop programs. When we started the EMT program, it was two students who pitched it. We thought it was kind of a crazy thing, but look at us now. We just celebrated the 20-year milestone and have over 40 EMT’s.
The Ruff Riders started with some student government students who wanted a spirit club for athletics, and now it’s one of the largest organizations.
Twice this week I met with groups of students. We do these pop-up parks and one group of students wants to get plain chairs and do a competition for student artists to design them. The artists would paint them on campus, then we would put them in clusters in different areas. What a great opportunity to expose our student artists and make Santa Clara better.
The other group wants to do nap pods. A student did it for a class project then connected with student government. They want to do a pilot for nap pods for students who are too busy to go home and take a nap.
GC: What are some of the more challenging parts of your job?
JR: Form the student experience part, it’s the role that alcohol plays in the life of our students. We do great things on campus, but we don’t have a downtown like some college towns. You can’t walk three blocks at 8:30 at night and find anything open. Often times, the alternative is just to go to a neighborhood party.
If I were to wave a magic wand I would want to work with the city and developers to develop much better options within walking distance to do cool things.
GC: Has your job gotten more difficult in the past few years because of the political climate?
JR: Yes, there’s that too. People are so impatient to listening and being open to other points of view. We don’t have great role models for civility right now. Social media does a lot of good but also creates opportunities for miscommunication and just bad information.
For me, you should listen first to understand someone else’s point of view than share your own point of view.
GC: What advice would you give to a new student starting out at Santa Clara?
JR: I would tell them first and foremost is to take risks. Whatever the current edge of their comfort zone is, go a little beyond that. You’ll be surprised how welcoming people can be and how many opportunities you can be exposed to. Everybody is experiencing the same Santa Clara but through a very different set of experiences through the choices they’re making.