Meet Dean Marco

By Shreya Balaji & Shivani Manivasagan
Photos courtesy of Dean Marco

As of February 1, 2022, Dr. Marco Antonio Valenzuela is now the permanent Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students at Harvey Mudd College. Read our interview with Dean Marco to learn more about his role on campus and some fun facts about him!

Q: As Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students, what does your role entail?

I oversee the Division of Student Affairs, which includes Career Services, the Office of Institutional Diversity, Housing and Residential Life, the Office of Campus Life, the Office of Community Engagement, the Office of Health and Wellness, the International Students and Scholars Office, and the Office of Academic Resources and Student Success. I provide guidance and direction for our division as a whole. I also look out for students; at weekly Cabinet meetings, when there’s a decision to be made, my first question is how students would respond or be impacted. Also, I work closely with the Honor Board and the Student COVID-19 Advisory Board (SCAB). Every week, I meet with the ASHMC President and Senate Chair and ask them for their perspective to get a good pulse for what students want. 

Q: How did you get into this line of work?

I went to a large public university, but I was very involved in organizations. In particular, I was an RA (equivalent to a proctor) and an orientation leader. When I graduated, my RA supervisor told me that I could do this for a living and recommended that I apply for a job where I would supervise RAs at the University of LaVerne. And so I applied, ended up getting it, and fell in love with the profession. I eventually went to get my master’s and then my doctorate in educational leadership. When I was in college, I remember our Dean of Students was fantastic, and I wanted to be like her someday; I want to make sure I have really great relationships with students while also holding folks accountable.

Q: Having gone to a large school yourself, why did you choose to work at Mudd, which is a very small school?

I went to UC Irvine, which had around 20,000 students when I was there, and now I’m here at Mudd, which has fewer than 1,000. I think Mudd’s size is fantastic — it’s also a residential college, where 99% of students live on campus. That makes it easier to see students and know what’s going on with them. At a big school, students can be just a number, and it’s a lot harder to make sure that everyone’s getting the support they need. I really want to make sure that students know that they can come and talk to me if there’s anything going on or if they want to share their suggestions with me. Mudders have great ideas; there’s a lot of things that I’d love to hear folks’ opinions on. I think Mudd’s size is perfect in terms of getting to know students better and being able to support them as much as possible.

Q: Do you wish that you worked even more closely with students?

I love working with and talking to students. I’ve wanted to start events like Dine with the Dean, where I go to lunch or dinner with students to get to know them better. Also, I’d love to hold events similar to DSA’s Boba Day but in dorm courtyards, where students can drop in and say hi to me. I want to meet with the dorm presidents more often to form relationships with them, and meet with every club and organization on campus. It’s just been difficult with COVID, trying to gauge what students’ comfort levels are, and it takes a lot of time to coordinate these events.

Q: How do you collaborate with the other colleges in the Claremont Consortium?

Everyone on the President’s Cabinet has counterparts at the other colleges. The Student Deans meet at least every two weeks, and we touch base about what’s happening on our campuses: 5C events, 5C parties, or anything that’s connected. My staff, the Campus Life folks, also have their counterparts, and we all work together. We discuss each of our campus’s policies (for example, regarding COVID, 5C events, etc.) — sometimes we all adopt the same position, and other times we decide to have different systems on each campus. There’s a lot of communication at different levels, making sure we prioritize our school’s goals while also supporting the mission of the Consortium.

Q: What would you say distinguishes Mudd from the other Claremont Colleges?

The Honor Code, as well as the self-governance that happens with the Honor Board, is very unique. We had an honor code when I worked for Semester at Sea (which was tied to the University of Virginia), but it wasn’t to the level we have here. I feel that Mudd students are caring — they want to see their peers, faculty, and staff succeed. Also, the students here are logical and understanding of necessary policies, as long as we explain why. In general I think Mudders are very involved on campus, and as a result have a close connection with the school and their peers even after they graduate, something that I haven’t seen as much at other schools. 

Q: How are your responsibilities different now in your new position?

I was interim Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students last semester. Before that, I was overseeing Housing and Wellness. Now, my position is to essentially represent my division everywhere I go, which is much more responsibility. It’s exciting — it’s a lot of work, but I do enjoy it very much. There’s a lot of decision-making involved, in which I make sure I talk to students about what they want to make sure that they have a good experience here. 

Q: Now that we’ve heard about your work, we’d love to learn more about you as a person! What is a fun fact about you?

I was in two bands in college. I played bass and I did backup vocals — I can’t sing, but it was a pop punk band and you don’t really have to sing for that. So I’ve written songs before, pop punk music.

Q: Do you have any pets?

I have a dog! His name is Tank. I rescued him in December of 2020 from Priceless Pets, right across the street. I would bring him to campus more often, but he gets very protective of me and growls at people if I’m there.  

Q: What is your favorite meal at the Hoch?

I like Pho Wednesdays, they’re so great! The vegan chocolate chip cookies are very good too. Miguel, the Dining Services advisor, does an amazing job with the food there.

Q: What do you like to do for fun?

I try to go to the gym in the mornings because it’s my destresser. I also like to travel — some weekends, I go to Palm Springs or San Diego. My family and friends are close by so I go see them during the weekends, and I enjoy getting dinner with some friends who live locally. I love going to different restaurants and shopping, and I’m trying to get into reading again! Mostly, I spend time with my dog, family, and friends.

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