The new assistant dean/director for the Center for Leadership & Involvement (CfLI) isn’t new to campus, or even to the role within the Division of Student Life. Mark Kueppers, who has been with office since 2007 and held the interim position, became the permanent assistant dean/director within the department earlier this month. He looks forward to new opportunities for the department and his own professional growth as he takes on this new role that encourages students’ exploration of their personal passions.
CfLI’s focus is to assist students in intentionally connecting with the far-ranging opportunities that exist throughout campus, including student organizations, the fraternity and sorority community and many others. The center offers leadership programming that supports students in making meaning of their experiences and in developing leadership capacity – the ability to affect positive change. And positive change is a priority of Kueppers’ as he enters this leadership role on campus.
Kueppers was born and raised among a family of women, including two older sisters, in Minnesota. After graduating from Arizona State University with a degree in broadcast journalism, Kueppers spent a couple years in San Diego but the Midwest called him back.
Besides being a Vikings fan (he claims, again, that this is their year!), Kueppers likes to spend his free time cooking and traveling with his partner. He is grateful for all the support she has given him throughout this transitional year, as they also just welcomed their first child into their family.
One of Kueppers’ favorite parts of working on a college campus is that students remind him how old he is, but they also keep him young at heart. He admittedly has little to no knowledge of pop culture: he playfully encourages students to prepare for the return of AOL and CDs and reminds them to update their Myspace accounts.
Earlier this month, we sat down and got to know the new assistant dean/director of CfLI a little better:
Student Life: What are you most looking forward to working as the assistant dean/director of Center for Leadership & Involvement (CfLI) at UW-Madison?
Mark Kueppers: The role that the Center for Leadership & Involvement plays on campus in connecting students to involvement and leadership opportunities is critical to a students’ experience at UW-Madison. The opportunity to guide, shape, and support students in this capacity is very personally and professionally fulfilling.
As CfLI approaches its 10-year anniversary, I think there’s a unique opportunity to reflect on our successes, what challenges we face, and how we want to set a path forward that meets the needs of all students.
SL: What will be the most challenging part of transitioning from associate director to director, working in CfLI? What are you most excited about?
MK: Transitioning into a role with more organizational authority presents a unique opportunity, to put to practice much of what I have learned about leadership and management. Serving as an assistant dean and director, there will be additional pressure to provide answers to complex problems. It is important not to be seduced into thinking that I have all the answers. Instead, it is critical to work with folks that are impacted to address complex issues while not abdicating my responsibilities in my role. There will be hard choices to make and I look forward to making those choices in community while staying focused on those that we serve.
I’m also excited about the on-going growth of CfLI’s programs and services. The upcoming addition of a ropes course, expansion of the Leadership Certificate program, and enhanced programming efforts in the fraternity and sorority community illustrate CfLI’s commitment to serving the changing needs of students. I look forward to supporting our staff as they provide these important programs and services.
SL: What is your hope for UW-Madison students as they explore/live out their Wisconsin Experience during their time on campus?
MK: The power of the Wisconsin Experience is that it provides a framework for students to intentionally reflect on their experiences on campus and consider how they’d like to further develop into the young people that they want to be.
One challenge with the Wisconsin Experience is that folks may not see their own reflection in it. So, as we continue to roll out the Wisconsin Experience it will be important to help students make practical connections between what they’re doing on campus and in the community and how it aligns with the Wisconsin Experience. The Wisconsin Experience takes many forms and it is our responsibility to demystify this concept so that folks can access it in ways that are real to them.
SL: At the Division of Student Life, we help our students connect their passion with their purpose. What does that mean to you?
MK: One of the primary purposes of the Center for Leadership & Involvement is to encourage students’ exploration of their personal passions. There aren’t many environments that are better positioned to do that sort of work than a college campus, especially UW-Madison. There are so many opportunities and there is so much to explore. We all may have some sense of what our passion is but those evolve and with new knowledge and new opportunities we tend to find new passions or deepen our commitment to current passions. CfLI plays an interesting role in both of these aspects: helping students find their passion through involvement but then defining and pursuing their purpose through the development of leadership skills.
SL: What do you want your legacy to be both professionally and personally?
MK: I tend to take my work on campus seriously because I believe in it, though I try not to take myself too seriously. With that in mind, I think it’s important both within our department and on campus that we are able to invite ourselves fully into these environments.
One of the things I am passionate about and a legacy I want to leave is that no one – students, faculty, staff, and community members – feels like they have to check any part of themselves when they engage with our office. That kind of rich diversity is stimulating, it provides such unique opportunities to learn and advance really challenging problems.
I am also committed to engaging in the hard conversations in ways that hopefully demonstrate a sense of compassion and curiosity with the goal of doing that in a way that does not compromise the wholeness of the folks we are engaging with. I want our students and staff to feel honored and respected. Recognizing that as we address challenges the most important decision is deepening our commitment to one another, knowing that solutions probably won’t come quickly but if we do it well and in partnership, it will be sustainable. That’s what is most important to me.