Welcome Back Tips from Dean Olstad

Dean of Students Christina Olstad


I’m excited for the opportunity to serve as your new dean of students at UW-Madison. As your dean, I’ll be leading a terrific team of individuals who are all dedicated to your success: the Dean of Students Office, Center for the First-Year Experience, Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards, the Associated Students of Madison staff and programs, and the Parent and Family Program. In partnership with other offices in Student Affairs and across campus, we are here to support the student experience.

I’m passionate about the student experience, coming to Madison with nearly two decades of work in higher education administration. In my most recent role, I served as interim assistant vice president for Student Affairs, Housing and Residence Life at Towson University outside of Baltimore.

My wife Kirsten, our 21-month-old son Robert (Bobby), and I are new to Madison and we’re excited to explore the city and build community. Originally from Minnesota, I love autumn and winter, and I’m grateful to be closer to family and back to my hockey and outdoor roots!

I look forward to building and supporting the great work that has been done in creating an equitable, inclusive environment where all students feel they belong. While I recognize that our work in this area is never done, I believe that through partnerships, transparency, and compassion, we can better our community. It’s important to me that all students thrive and find their place on campus.

Finally, I’m impressed with UW-Madison’s many traditions, deeply rooted in the Wisconsin Idea and Wisconsin Experience. I am excited to support students as they explore these traditions, from orientation to graduation. My hope is to inspire students to live authentically and take pride in being part of the UW-Madison community.

While I’m new to campus, I can still offer some tips and resources to help welcome (and welcome back) our Badgers.

  1. Make the most of your Wisconsin Experience: College is more than the time you spend in class. Get the semester started by attending Wisconsin Welcome events and use #WIwelcome to join the conversation on social media. I plan to be at many of the events, including the Multicultural Student Orientation (MCOR), Student Organization Fair, and more. Find me, introduce yourself, and let’s take a selfie. Follow me on Twitter as I explore the UW-Madison community.
  2. Get involved. Attend events at the Wisconsin Union’s Memorial Union and Union South. The Union is the home to leadership opportunities and almost daily activities and events. While you’re a UW-Madison student, you’re a member of the Wisconsin Union. That means you receive access, discounts, and benefits that come with membership. The Center for Leadership & Involvement is another great place to look for opportunities to engage with student organizations, leadership programs, and  Fraternity and Sorority Life.
  3. Be prepared. Read your class assignments and seek assistance early if you are struggling. There are resources that can help you be successful such as office hours, The Writing Center and Greater University Tutoring Services.
  4. Be open and present. Introduce yourself to five new people over the next few weeks and truly listen to their voices. You’ll never know what you might have in common or what you will able to learn from others unless you are open to meeting new people.
  5. Help create a welcoming campus climate. Join the effort to make our campus more inclusive for all Badgers – say hello, smile, and demonstrate warmth and kindness toward one another. UW-Madison is committed to creating a community where all feel welcome and belong. We also offer a variety of resources for students to explore their identities and find community such as the Multicultural Student Center, Gender and Sexuality Campus Center, International Student Services, McBurney Disability Resource Center, and Veteran Services & Military Assistance Center.
  6. Be healthy. It’s good for your body and mind. Eat a balanced diet. Drink plenty of water. Unplug from technology and live in the moment. Sleep. Get more healthy living tips from University Health Services. (Psst: Remember no-cost flu vaccines are available to all enrolled students!) Play hard, get fit, and live well with Recreation and Wellbeing. Join the movement (or a fitness class or intramural team).
  7. If you choose to drink, be smart about alcohol use. Or don’t drink at all. The choices you make outside the classroom can seriously hurt your ability to succeed here. High-risk drinkers jeopardize their own health and wellbeing while making our campus less welcoming and less safe for everyone. So please, take care of your health, be smart about the choices you make, and think about the kind of community you want to be a part of here.
  8. Ask for what you need. If you need assistance or support along the way, reach out to a faculty or staff member or someone in my office (dean@studentlife.wisc.edu). We’re here to support your success.
  9. Finally, many of you may not know this, we are on Ho-Chunk land. The Madison area and UW-Madison specifically, contain many archaeological sites, which reveals the thousands of years that the Ho-Chunk Nation and other Native Americans have lived and called this land home. It is sacred, please join me in honoring and respecting their history.

I hope to see many of you on campus and at different events. You can also find my office hours here. Please stop by and say hello! I’d love to hear your story. Until then …

Take care, and On, Wisconsin!

Christina Olstad, EdD
Dean of Students, UW-Madison