What Is a Dean of Students?

Student Life Is the Dean's Focus -- They're There to Help You

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Nearly every college campus has a dean of students (or something similar). It's common knowledge that they're in charge of all things that relate to students, but if you were asked to define that in more detail, you'd probably draw a blank.

So, just what is a dean of students, and how should you utilize the dean of students office during your time in school?

What Does a Dean of Students Do?

First and foremost, the dean of students on a college campus is one of the highest, if not the highest, ranking people in charge of student life. Some schools may also use the title Vice Provost of Student Life or a Vice Chancellor for Students.

No matter their title, the dean of students oversees the majority of things that relate to students when it comes to their experiences outside (and sometimes inside) the college classroom.

If you're confused about an assignment for one of your classes, you'd likely head to your professor. But if you're concerned about anything outside the classroom that can have an impact on your experience as a college student, the dean of students can be a great ally.

This may include:

  • Your living situation.
  • A health issue. 
  • A learning difference or disability.
  • A personal problem that you are facing.
  • Conflicts with other students.
  • Campus climate.

How a Dean of Students Can Help You

Your campus' dean of students can be a very knowledgeable and helpful resource.

  • They can help you find solutions to problems, whether they're personal issues that come up during your time in school or financial concerns that you weren't expecting.
  • They can also help connect you to people on campus who might be better able to work with you in addressing a concern or a problem.
  • While most of what they do deals with life outside of the classroom, you can often also talk to them about things like a professor you're having problems with.
  • They simply might be an interesting, fun person who you can talk to about getting more involved on campus.

Unfortunately, for some students, their first encounter with the dean of students might be negative or uncomfortable in nature. If you're charged with plagiarism, for example, the dean of students office might be coordinating your hearing. Even in awkward cases, however, the dean of students can still advise you of your rights as a student and let you know what your options are -- regardless of your situation.

When Should I Call the Dean of Student's Office?

If you aren't sure if the dean of students is the right place to go with a question, with a request, or just for more information, it's probably smart to stop in any way and err on the safe side. If nothing else, they can save you the time of having to run around campus and wait in endless lines trying to figure out where you should go.

Given that life sometimes just happens while you're in school (e.g., loved ones dying, unexpected illnesses, or other unfortunate situations), it's always good to know everything the dean of students can do for you before you run into trouble.

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Your Citation
Lucier, Kelci Lynn. "What Is a Dean of Students?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/what-is-a-dean-of-students-793405. Lucier, Kelci Lynn. (2020, August 27). What Is a Dean of Students? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-a-dean-of-students-793405 Lucier, Kelci Lynn. "What Is a Dean of Students?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-a-dean-of-students-793405 (accessed March 23, 2023).