Episode 100: Rafael Rodriguez, Associate Vice President and NYU Dean of Students
Rafael Rodriguez, NYU Associate Vice President and Dean of Students
On the 100th episode of You Matter! Karen speaks with NYU Associate Vice President and Dean of Students, Rafael Rodriguez, the first person to hold the position.
Doctor Rafael Rodriguez is a demonstrated leader who brings over 12 years of experience in student affairs. He received his Bachelor of Arts from Hobart and William Smith Colleges and a Master's Degree in Higher Education and Student Affairs from SUNY Buffalo. Rafael earned his doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at the University of Vermont. He conducted and published his research examining the intercultural competence development of aspiring Student Affairs practitioners.
Over his career, Doctor Rodriguez has developed an expertise and proven track record in crisis response, organizational development and change management, recruitment, training, and retention of diverse staff, and implementing data-informed best practices that bolster the student experience. His breadth and depth of professional experience and volunteer involvement on and off campuses have earned him a reputation for being a competent, caring, and strategic leader.
Throughout his career, Rafael’s work has also included providing holistic support to first-generation and marginalized students, fostering student leadership development, mentoring and developing professional staff, and leading cultural and organizational change. Currently, Doctor Rodriguez serves as the Associate Vice President and Dean of Students at New York University. In his role, Rafael works at both a system and individual level, identifying trends within student communities and aligning programs and services to fulfill the university's mission and goals. Rafael collaborative leads and further amplifies strategic efforts to strengthen the community experience of all students.
As Bronx native, Rafael enjoys everything that is classic New York, especially a good slice of pizza, a morning bagel, and a Yankee game. When he is not working, Rafael enjoys spending quality time with his wife and newborn, large family gatherings, listening to salsa music, refining his BBQ skills, or relaxing on a beach with his wife.
Intro Voices 00:04
Where do I go? It only happened once. I think I was singled out. The phone calls began about one month ago. What is hazing? Something happened to me when I was younger. I'm worried about my safety. He said he was sorry. Can someone help me? Where can I get help? Can someone help me? This is You Matter, a podcast for the NYU community developed by the Department of Campus Safety.
Karen Ortman 00:36
Hi, everyone, and welcome back to You Matter, a podcast created to teach, inspire and motivate members of the NYU community who have been victimized in some form or fashion and to identify resources both on and off campus that can help. I am your host Karen Ortman, Associate Vice President of Campus Safety Operations at the Department of Campus Safety, and a retired law enforcement professional. Today, I welcome Rafael Rodriguez NYU's first Associate Vice President and Dean of Students to celebrate our 100th episode of You Matter. Rafael, welcome to You Matter.
Rafael Rodriguez 01:15
Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here.
Karen Ortman 01:17
My pleasure entirely. And thank you so much for agreeing to be my 100th guest on you matter. Very exciting, momentous episode for us.
Rafael Rodriguez 01:26
Congratulations to you and to the good work you've been doing on this podcast.
Karen Ortman 01:30
Thank you so much. Let's start by talking about where you grew up?
Rafael Rodriguez 01:36
That's a great question. I grew up not too far from here in the South Bronx, I grew up in 138th Street.
Karen Ortman 01:43
So you're a New Yorker.
Rafael Rodriguez 01:44
A native New Yorker, born and raised.
Karen Ortman 01:46
That's wonderful. Did you always have ambitions to work in higher education?
Rafael Rodriguez 01:53
I always had ambitions to make a difference. I always had ambitions to be in a different circumstance that of what I grew up in. So I had an amazing experience growing up, and also some hardships and I always aspired to support my family to be in a better space.
Karen Ortman 02:17
So when you thought of your adult life as a younger person, did you see yourself doing anything in particular?
Rafael Rodriguez 02:26
Absolutely. I thought I was going to be a lawyer.
Karen Ortman 02:28
Rafael Rodriguez 02:29
Yeah. I always wanted to be a lawyer. That was a huge ambition of mine. Student Affairs is in higher education is such a niche field. That because of language translations, and just how not well known it is outside of the field, and sometimes outside of the country. My mother still describes to my family what I do as practice law.
Karen Ortman 02:52
Rafael Rodriguez 02:52
Yeah, so some of my family members still think I'm a lawyer. I have no formal legal background at all. It's easy to say, you know, here's my successful lawyer, Son and to say he's the Dean of Students, and try to explain what that means.
Karen Ortman 03:09
Well, there are similarities you do advocate for people.
Rafael Rodriguez 03:13
Karen Ortman 03:14
Particularly for students. I speak to lawyers. Yeah, there you go.
Rafael Rodriguez 03:17
Frequently. That's a thing.
Karen Ortman 03:19
So when did you get your start in higher ed?
Rafael Rodriguez 03:22
Hmm. I think my passion for higher ed really began to surface when I was in undergrad an undergraduate, I attended Hobart and William Smith colleges, in Geneva, New York. And I was a part of the Higher Education Opportunity Program scholarship. And previous to that, I had an experience where I went to study away for high school and a place called Edina, Minnesota, I was a part of the better chance scholar. And that was quite a rough transition. It was a bumpy transition. So I did not know how to articulate this. At the time. There was a huge significant amount of culture shock, we took a kid from the South Bronx, and put them in one of the most affluent neighborhoods in Edina Minnesota, in the Midwest. So there was lots of culture barriers, assimilation, some ability to find meaning and place and connection and affirmation and affinity as a brown, Afro Latino male in a very white community. That was very difficult for me. And I went from being essentially top of my class in middle school to eventually losing my scholarship in a Ediner better chance program. And what I realized there was that when I was struggling folks provided an incredible amount of academic support. So here's some additional tutoring some additional mentoring and what was missing though was the psychosocial development and support the meaning of place of space of connecting with folks who look like you of finding foods that are familiar. And that is the field of student affairs. When I went to college, it was the opposite experience, I was more already prepared for the culture shock. But I found that there was a whole set of professionals that really understood the holistic student needs, that more studies Hall sessions are not going to fill the gaps that I would need as a student, to be successful, to find my voice as a leader to find opportunities to get involved to find meaning in place to find connections, those are as important as my ability to study successfully. I found that and discovered that in my undergraduate experience at Hobart, and William Smith colleges.
Karen Ortman 05:45
So was it at that point, when you found that connection, and that sort of holistic response to your particular situation where you decided this is what I want to do in my life?
Rafael Rodriguez 06:03
Yes, it came as a path, I saw the amazing difference that folks can make in the folks made in my life. And just, it was the amount of individuals who care for me as a whole being as a whole person in my college experience. They were just too many to name, I still go on campus, and I see many of them. And they still play a huge part in my life. I'm have come into town recently, and we've connected because they really understood who I was. And we're committed to my success overall. And that's when I realized this is not law school. But this is a venue for sure for me to make a difference, particularly their focus at a predominantly white institution, on supporting students of color. These are all folks who had very distinct varied identities, but still were committed to my success and support. So I definitely thought that was an opportunity for me to advocate and create the kind of difference that I I've always known I wanted to make.
Karen Ortman 07:01
Did you start in higher ed after graduating undergraduate school?
Rafael Rodriguez 07:06
Yeah, I would say my first maybe experience in connection to higher education, particularly Student Affairs was in my position as a student leader while I was in undergraduate, okay, because that put me into close proximity with administrators and leaders. I remember having a really close connection to the president of my college at that point. And that was where I began to really understand what the field was. And once I in the process of graduating, and finishing up my undergraduate studies, part of what I did was apply for Higher Education and Student Affairs programs. And I went directly into what we call a HISA program, higher education and student affairs program at the University of Buffalo. So I went from Geneva, New York, cold and winter, to Buffalo, New York more cold winter. And I did a two year program there. And well, at the University of Buffalo, I was able to work in a variety of offices and have quite a bit of experience, both at that university but also above state. So I work with the education opportunity program, I had experience working with the Center for Student Leadership, the intercultural affair center, so it was able to begin exploring what the field had to offer, and ways in which I can really have one on one connections with students to help them as they began their process of finding their voice. Just like I had the opportunity to find my voice as an undergraduate student, it was a great opportunity for me to begin to give back, teach classes, connect with students, help them find their voice, and in a variety of ways.
Karen Ortman 08:45
After that two year program, was that a master's program?
Rafael Rodriguez 08:51
It was two years masters program.
Karen Ortman 08:53
Okay, a Masters program in..? Higher education and student affairs. It was a Master's in Education with a specialization in Higher Education and Student Affairs. And after I completed that program is when I began my journey at the University of Vermont, and I served a few years there as a residence director. I also spent some time at Bard College. I spent a year at Bard College as an assistant director for opportunity programs. So you left University of Vermont, went to Bard.
Rafael Rodriguez 09:25
Yup. Up on th Hudson, not too far from here. And then returned to the University of Vermont.
Karen Ortman 09:31
What are your fondest memories of working at the University of Vermont?
Rafael Rodriguez 09:35
My fondest memories. While at the University of Vermont was the work we did to really reconceptualize the residential experience for our students to shift from a an approach of all students are required to live in housing, to really tell the story as to why they should live in housing, and what can they expect from that experience? I think that took a tremendous amount of innovation and creativity, of collective pull from across partners from the division, and institutional partners that really allowed us to center students first.
Karen Ortman 10:12
Do you miss it? The State of Vermont.
Rafael Rodriguez 10:16
Absolutely, I think part of thinking about our move, one of the things that really hit us was just how much we can go outside and see greenspace just the quiet of it all, how amazing the space is, and how incredibly different living in the middle of Soho would be. just the access to green space. And, you know, we can still open windows but it's a lot more noise coming in, if you get the right time of day...
Karen Ortman 10:52
Rafael Rodriguez 10:53
a lot less green. So we definitely missed the place. It was a you know, Vermont was a place where my wife and I met. And we have a beautiful baby. she was a graduate student, I was a residence director. And we have, you know, fun memories, you have an amazing community there. It's where I was able to professionally do a lot of my growing and development in that space, in a space where I contributed as much into it as they did into me. So I definitely have fond memories. I love for the University of Vermont and the state of Vermont.
Karen Ortman 11:26
What were your initial thoughts, when you heard of the position that was available here at NYU for Dean of Students a first ever role.
Rafael Rodriguez 11:35
I think that's what stood out to me the most that it was an inaugural row, it's a position that it's well known and part of most Student Affairs portfolios. It is an integral position that really connects the student to the university. And vice versa, I think the dean of students is really well positioned to be able to articulate and understand through close connections and relationship with the student body, what the needs are. Sometimes it's what the needs are that students don't always have the capacity to articulate. And sometimes this is, you get your information by having really close relationships with relationships with the students. It is the it is a critical role in really being able to make sure that that our university that are systems that are processes that are experienced centers of students, so I was first surprised that it was inaugural and also quickly was able to see the impact that I can have on the life of students here at NYU. I what I have known always and what has not been a secret is just how brilliant the students of NYU are. And I thought, boy, if I can match my passion for student development and growth, with the brilliance of the students, I can make a world of difference. And I feel very fortunate and proud that I have the opportunity to serve in this capacity, particularly as it's an inaugural role here.
Karen Ortman 12:51
I think we're very lucky to have you having known you for a brief time you have been here.
Rafael Rodriguez 13:15
Karen Ortman 13:16
You are definitely the perfect fit. As the first dean of students at NYU, what is your understanding as to why NYU created this new role?
Rafael Rodriguez 13:28
Well the position was really championed by Jason Pino, who really championed and articulated the need for a position to serve as a student front facing position to connect and understand and articulate the student needs, as well as really make sure that all of our systems and our services and our approaches, articulate and connect back to what students are asking for. I think this was, in large part, his effort, his brainchild, and he was joined in his vision for this position by a very robust student voice that also articulated a need for a position to reflect their needs, their desires, but also someone who can help the student body navigate this experience their college experience. So I think Jason's vision, his experience in the field of student affairs, as well as a strong and very clear minded student body help bring this position to fruition.
Karen Ortman 14:37
And you started in?
Rafael Rodriguez 14:39
I began the new role on October 25 2021.
Karen Ortman 14:44
What are your responsibilities as the Dean of Students?
Rafael Rodriguez 14:47
I have a broad portfolio of oversight, a set of special projects. Ultimately, I'm a student facing position and my responsibility is to make sure that we are thinking through systemically how do we remove barriers for student success or how do we remove barriers to enhance student success, that is primarily our role. And that that means that sometimes students are doing direct outreach to me, and connecting about issues or any kind of challenges they may be experiencing, or things that they want to advocate and move forward. And that's always exciting, right? When we are able to meet with students when I'm able to meet with students proactively, or even when I'm able to help students troubleshoot it difficult moment. Under my umbrella also is oversight over the offices of students, the Office of Student Conduct, Residential Life and Housing Services.
Karen Ortman 15:42
that's a lot. Do students communicate with you directly when they have a a barrier or a perceived barrier,
Rafael Rodriguez 15:53
there are a couple methods, in which that gets brought to my attention. Oftentimes, our students are so well connected within either their college and or within any other activity University. And it's not unfamiliar, or it's not uncommon for a staff member to connect a student to me directly. Also, sometimes students reach out directly to me. And we have seen that over the past couple months where students would directly reach out to say, I'm having a specific challenge, I would love some guidance and support on how to how to address this. Also parents, part of my role is to liaise and work closely with parents to help them better understand how to nurture the student's academic journey. The college process looks a lot different. Some of our parents have not attended college, and oftentimes are looking for and seeking advice on how they can best support their student in navigating this experience. So parents oftentimes reach out to me as well.
Karen Ortman 16:47
So there's no legal prohibition against you communicating with parents.
Rafael Rodriguez 16:53
There's certain information that I cannot share with parents, I can always speak in generalities what's available, what processes often look like and how they unfold. While I might not always be able to speak about a specific student record, I can always help a parent navigate how to best support their student and provide my feedback and and my insight, given my years of experience,
Karen Ortman 17:18
where are you physically located at NYU,
Rafael Rodriguez 17:20
I'm physically located in the Kimmel center. And that is, in Washington Square, it's a prime space, and you folks can easily find me there. We do accept walk ins. So if anyone wants to come into our suite and find me, it's definitely something they can do. Although typically, again, parents and families and students tend to send me a message and email. And part of my responsibility is to be responsive and attentive to student needs. So part of my goal is to always be on top of my messages and ensure that as students are reaching out as parents are reaching out that I'm communicating with them in a timely fashion.
Karen Ortman 17:58
You're one person,
Rafael Rodriguez 17:59
I'm one person,
Karen Ortman 18:00
we have a large student body,
Rafael Rodriguez 18:03
we do. What is the number now? Well over a 40,000. And we're talking globally. Yeah. Higher than that over 50,000 students?
Karen Ortman 18:16
How does one person address the needs of so many students? I would imagine that once it's out there, and this podcast will certainly put it out there, not only within the United States, but internationally. How could you possibly handle the needs of you know, so many students when you're just one person?
Rafael Rodriguez 18:44
Well the reality is I cannot. Let's make that very clear. Nor is it my job to handle every single need of all students. We have an amazingly talented staff here at New York University, we have the most and I've sort of shared my experience in higher education, we have an incredibly talented and committed group of professional staff members who can support student success. Oftentimes, my role is to help students navigate the system or navigate our institution and connect them to the appropriate individuals. I similarly do not have all the knowledge of NYU. I've been here for a few months, and there's no way I can have that, not as large of institution as we are. What I do have is the ability to help folks find as a starting place, how to proceed with any issues that they're having, and or move in advance any causes. In the advocacy work. A lot of our students want to advocate for change, advocate for for improvements. I can support the students in helping figure out what the pathways is for that. And also I can bring back to various conversations and constituencies, broader systemic shifts and or changes that we ought to be considering to help improve the lives and experiences lives and experiences of our students. That is really the role that I serve. My position is physically or my position is geared towards the NYU New York experience, which includes the Washington Square and Brooklyn campuses. that's those are the populations that I readily serve.
Karen Ortman 20:18
In what ways do you support veteran and military service students, as well as first generation students?
Rafael Rodriguez 20:26
Those are great questions. I would say that in the Center for Student Life, we have a veteran and military affairs suite that is currently overseen by Alan McFarland, who I have the pleasure to work with. And he is himself a veteran of the Air Force, and someone who has for his expansive time here at NYU, really championed the cause and advocated for the needs of our veterans and military families. And I'm glad to do that alongside him. Our first generation college students is a population that has recently been added to my portfolio, as we seek to really, as we talked about earlier, the Dean's role have been one of eliminating barriers, we've really began to focus and spend a lot of energy on being able to understand what the first generation college student experience is here at NYU. What are the challenges? What are the needs? And what are the successes, right, a lot of our first generation college students graduate on par, if not a little bit higher rate than our non first gen students. And that's impressive. it's important to know and understand what is contributing to the success? And how can we enhance that, and ensure that throughout their process and journey we're celebrating and equipping them with the skills to be successful? That's work that is a personal passion of mine as a first generation college student. So I'm excited to lean into.
Karen Ortman 21:50
Very good. What do you see as the biggest issue confronting students today?
Rafael Rodriguez 21:57
Well, I think that's a great question. And I maybe I'll highlight a few, I think, first is, we are continuing to see really the implications of the pandemic, on students, on staff. And on systems in general, I think many of our staff are continuously impacted by the inability to really live out our passion, which is to engage students fully, robustly and in person. And as we continue to really maximize and put safety at the forefront, a lot of staff are having to end seeing that their passion is not being able to be fully lived. But we also see that it's having a huge implication and impact on our student experience. Students have for quite some time been doing the remote experience, and that is having an extreme ability on top of other variables and factors on their ability to connect, to find community to find sense of meaning and purpose. If we remember back into what I remember back on what I shared, what made a difference for me and my college experience and what made my experience at Hobart and William Smith colleges, so different than my experience in high school was the ability to do just that to find connection to find community to find mentorship, to find a sense of purpose. COVID has really impacted that limiting the ways in which we're able to engage has really impacted, as we saw from the Surgeon General, it's really impacted and spiked a mental health crisis and concern, and one that higher education has been grappling with for quite some time. COVID has only exacerbated that. so that's a huge issue and challenge, I would also say, the national trend around our polarization has really infiltrated higher education as well. So a huge part of my role, and how I think about working proactively with students in ways that are different than what we've done in the past, is getting students to be in the space with folks who they disagree with, and that sometimes might be myself. So a good question to ask students, or a question I often ask students is not how are we going to work together when we agree? Because that's easy. When we agree, we're going to advance the same cause. How are we going to be in connection to community and relationship when we disagree? That is as important as how we're going to work together when we agree. One is very easy. The other one is absolutely critical for our success as people as professionals really as a nation, and I think that is a huge challenge that many of us are facing. Because many of us are struggling to do that even in our families, right? who's not going to be invited over for a family function because we don't agree with them. That's often the conversations we're having versus how are we in community and connection and relationship when we don't see eye to eye.
Karen Ortman 24:53
A Dean of Students has to be outgoing and be able to communicate with a diverse population of students. Since administered discipline and navigate conflict, how challenging is this For someone in your position?
Rafael Rodriguez 25:11
It's not challenging for me at all. It's actually a space in an area where I thrive. So I personally, and it could be my new yorker attitude, right? I absolutely see conflict, as not something that I despise or try hard to avoid. It's not something I'm seeking out. But I see it as so integral to my development and growth, because I've seen the role that conflict has played in my ability to foster even stronger and better relationships, and my ability to foster even stronger and better outcomes for myself, for students. It's just integral to life. Yeah. And I think we have, in some ways, attempted to take out any discomfort of anything we do in life. And that's where the college experience is just so unique. Because unlike a vacation, right, or a trip to a fancy resort, we as parents are paying, in some cases, an extraordinary amount of money for a process that is going to intentionally cause a child discomfort caused our student cognitive dissonance, right? Having to think have them think in ways in which they've never had to think before and have them feel intense amount of discomfort during a time in which all we've done for many of our children is to try to remove any sense of discomfort. Boy, is that a such a paradigm shift, which is why my work with parents is so critical to help them understand how this is a different experience. But conflict is part of of life. Conflict is part and it's not something that ought to be dreaded.
Karen Ortman 26:54
I love your philosophy on that. I absolutely agree with you. Why it's important to navigate conflict, because you will inevitably confront conflict throughout your life.
Rafael Rodriguez 27:08
Well, I often talk to folks about in our work, we talk to folks about the learning zone, right? So the safe zone is where we sometimes want to socialize and protect a lot of our children, right. So as parents want to protect our children make sure that they're always safe. In the development process, we know that that safe zone is where no learning happens. Right? So there's a safe zone, there's another outer sort of circle, that is the Learning Zone, and as another outer circle, that's the panic zone. We're not trying to induce panic. But we know that strictly staying in our safe zone by not engaging in anything that's uncomfortable. We're not gonna do our best learning and growing, right. And I often talk to parents about that person in the cubicle, a few a few cubicles down, or that sort of employee, that's a few cubicles down from them that they don't always find the most pleasant, right? How do we make sure that their child does not become that in the future? How do we make sure that they have developed the skills that they need to be the interpersonal skills they need to be successful, to be able to engage folks to be able to move in advance a product forward? And those are those are critical skills.
Karen Ortman 28:13
How do you work with academic deans?
Rafael Rodriguez 28:15
That's a great question. For listeners who might not be aware. NYU has a number of schools each of which have their distinct Dean's, and also Student Affairs staff. And my responsibility is to really connect the dots and to translate what we're hearing centrally, and to serve as a connector between the in classroom experience and the out of classroom experience. So we do that along with a lot of other amazing professionals in the Division of Student Affairs, and across each school, to make sure we have a robust and full picture of who our students are, where they're thriving, where they're engaged, how they're successful, how they're struggling. We work quite closely with all of the academic schools, with the deans as well as their respective student affairs units.
Karen Ortman 29:11
Do you hold meetings with students, like standing meetings or student groups? You know, do you have, is there some consistency with how you might meet with members of the student community?
Rafael Rodriguez 29:28
Absolutely. Integral to my role, right? That's just part of my responsibility is to be student facing. So I work closely with and attend our student government Assembly meetings. And if anyone who is familiar with our SGA, it's quite large, and so I am a regular presence at those meetings as well as some as well as the Senate Council meetings as well for SGA. I also have quite a robust calendar that I'm making my way through and I started back in October. When I began really meeting with a multitude of student organizations representing a diverse set of perspectives, of interests, of needs, and that's part of how I can effectively do my job, I need to understand who our students are, what makes them tick, what excites them what they're passionate about. So I am regularly meeting with student groups and organizations and have been out attending the many board meetings attending many general club member interest meetings, attending a number of town halls as well to hear from students directly from the to hear feedback from students directly about their experiences.
Karen Ortman 30:40
you're very busy
Rafael Rodriguez 30:41
A little bit.
Karen Ortman 30:43
What are your long term goals for the Division of Student Affairs?
Rafael Rodriguez 30:47
Along with Jason Pina and Bethany, I think our collective vision is to really make sure that we can understand and articulate what the student experience is. And make sure that a student attending NYU has multiple entry ways of becoming engaged of becoming connected, of becoming a student, at a private university working towards a public good at students who are able to our collective goal is also to make sure the students are able to see their pathways towards success, be that continuing to education, post their undergrad experience here at NYU, or to be gainfully employed and have a career that really they are excited by that brings them a sense of purpose and meaning.
Karen Ortman 31:34
Okay, how will you measure your success?
Rafael Rodriguez 31:38
That's a great question. My success will be measured in a number of ways. First is a student's recognition of my position and that I exist, my ability to help students understand how to navigate their experience, it'll be measured by the ability for us to be able to articulate a clear vision and purpose for the work that we do, and have students respond well to that collective vision of the work of the Division of Student Affairs. That is, I think, the work that really is ahead of us, it's an exciting time to be a part of the Division of Student Affairs. I think Jason Pina's vision for getting us there is what most excites me, it's our ability to really center our students and to make sure that they are able to engage, and to be successful here at NYU.
Karen Ortman 32:26
And it's so important to be aligned with those with whom you work.
Rafael Rodriguez 32:31
Indeed, and I think that's the goal. That's the work. We're a big university. Our divisions are also massive, and our subunits are also large. So making sure that we are all marching to the beat of the same drummer, and that students are able to more easily navigate our university in order to allow them to be successful. That's the ultimate goal here. I think that's what brings us all to the table. That's why folks in student affairs, and higher education do the work that they do, it's to really encourage and support student success.
Karen Ortman 33:04
what do you love most about your job?
Rafael Rodriguez 33:06
What I love most about my job? I gotta say, I do love my interactions with students, they are brilliant. And I love learning from them as much as they learn from me. I also have to say, a specific niche, or specific thing that I really not only do I love that really I think strikes in my heart is when I'm able to see a student with marginalized identities. When I'm able to connect with students as a marginalized identity and see their eyes just light up. I think I go back to when I've had those moments. And there has been moments in which I've been able to meet with students. And they did not, they could not fathom that a person who looked like them, who oftentimes has the same experience the background, or come from the same neighborhood, as they came from holds the position that I hold, and they find it so refreshing, but also an opportunity for them to connect. So that has a special place in my heart. But ultimately, I think connecting with students, and helping them make sense of their idea. And most of them are really brilliant. Most of the ideas are great. Some of the ideas require some refinement, but they're there to work with you in order to really advance a cause. And I think that's just unique. That's special.
Karen Ortman 34:22
Yeah, I agree. What would you change tomorrow, if you could?
Rafael Rodriguez 34:28
Well, the thing I would change is all about me, you know, I wish I could advance my awareness and knowledge of the entire institution by 10 years. So that I'm no longer the new guy. But really, I'm enjoying the process in the journey.I'm too fresh here to know what I would change if I had to.
Karen Ortman 34:48
Okay. What do you want listeners to know about you and your office that they might not know
Rafael Rodriguez 34:54
that we are here and we care? I mean, our ultimate goal is to support students and families in this college experience, and if you are unsure about where to start, where to begin, where to go, you might have something that you're trying to change a cause that you want to advocate for a passion you want to be involved in, or something that you're struggling with. Oftentimes, the biggest challenge is not knowing where to start. Where those folks, are we going to be the ones that always get the resolution for you that you're seeking. No, but we'll connect you with those folks. And that's who we are. And always feel free to reach out to us. Students can always drop by and or send us an email, parents often tend to reach out to the parent email alias to the parent email alias. Yeah, parents can always reach out to the parent email alias, or call the parent line. And that's typically how folks get to me. And students are able to drop by and students often drpop by and or email. And we're really good about getting students in and connected and meeting with me in a timely fashion.
Karen Ortman 36:03
Is there anything that we have not talked about that you would like to share?
Rafael Rodriguez 36:10
Well, I'll add, I'll add my thanks for this podcast that focuses on really removing the stigma around victimization, mental health, particularly as it's an important and increasing topic and area of focus. In many areas of our lives, particularly in higher education. I think it's a kudos to you, and you want to have a 100th show. And thanks to the listeners, I know many of our responsibilities are to ensure, as I've said many times, the overarching success of our students not just here while they're in college, but across your lives. And a lot of how we do this is by having honest and frank conversations about the resources that are available, and how to help students really unpack and demystify some of the sometimes harmful narratives around being a being a victim of being a survivor, or a navigating addiction or navigating a mental health concerns and our needs. So this is important and critical work. And I appreciate you. And again, another congrats for your 100th Show and for allowing me to be a guest here.
Karen Ortman 37:14
my pleasure. And thank you, and thank you for talking to me today. And I'm thrilled that you really are a resource for our students And anyone listening out there who's going to any other institution of higher learning. You hopefully have a dean of students like Raf and can go seek their guidance, because it's a tremendous resource...
Rafael Rodriguez 37:39
Karen Ortman 37:39
for all of us. So thank you. Thank you to my guest, Rafael and to all of our listeners for joining us for today's episode of You Matter if any information presented was triggering or disturbing, please feel free to contact the Wellness Exchange at 212-443-9999 or NYU's Department of Campus Safety and their Victim Services Unit at 212-998-2222. Please share, like, and subscribe to You Matter on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or Tune in.