Vice President of Student Affairs candidate plans to increase student engagement

By Abby Byer

DeKALB — The search for NIU’s next vice president for the Division of Student Affairs continues with candidate Gary Dukes. 

Dukes currently serves as the vice president of Student Affairs at Western Oregon University in Monmouth, Oregon. 

A public forum with Dukeswas held from 3 to 4 p.m. Wednesday in the Holmes Student Center Illinois Room. 

Dukes began the forum by sharing details from his own college experience. He is a first-generation college student and said that in college he struggled with his grades and scholarships. 

“My story is not unique among first-generation students or many students in general, but I believe it emphasizes the importance of engagement and mentorship,” Dukes said. “I can relate to current students in many ways.”

Dukes answered questions from students, staff and other members of the community who were present both in person and via Facebook Live. 

Dukes said he is always looking to connect with students and prioritizes staff and student involvement.

“The important thing is listening to students and hearing what they want,” Dukes said. “We have an opportunity to reimagine activities, programs and traditions and starting with hearing out what the students want is the best way to go about this.”

Dukes believes that meeting students in their own spaces is a great way to get students engaged and involved. Small meetings with students allow them to share what they desire from student affairs.

“Food, of course, is always a good motivator,” Dukes said. “I have hosted pizza parties with the vice president before and I think that’s a great way to keep students engaged and understand the work that we’re doing for them.” ” 

Dukes said he trusts in his abilities that he will be a positive asset and the transition to NIU will be easy for him.

“I’m a pretty optimistic person and I think the only thing that might be tricky for me is scaling from 6,000 students to 16,000,” Dukes said.

Dukes said he had a positive experience at NIU this week.

“I have had a great time here at NIU,” Dukes said. “Seeing students in the Student Center was especially refreshing to me.”