Purdue Profiles: Mindy Dalgarn

February 8, 2011

Mindy Dalgarn, vice chancellor for student affairs at Purdue University Calumet. (Purdue University Calumet photo)

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As a student at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Ore., as a residential dean at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., and as vice president of student affairs at Mercer University in Macon, Ga., Mindy Dalgarn lived on campus.

During that 30-year time span, Dalgarn immersed herself in student life, and that did not change when she moved off campus and assumed her role as vice chancellor for student affairs at Purdue University Calumet. Although Dalgarn plans to retire in June after five years at PUC, she hopes to remain involved with students by volunteering at an elementary school.

How did you become interested in work with students?

I was very active on campus during my years as a college student. I was a resident advisor, a "counter" on the dining room line, and I worked in the physics department -- not because I knew anything about physics, but because I could type. I was also involved in the orientation program and served as an admissions guide. At the time, I had no idea those would be my formative years as a student affairs professional.

What do you do as vice chancellor for student affairs at Purdue University Calumet?

I am a strong proponent of communication, cooperation and collaboration; so much of my time is spent reaching out to others, cultivating relationships and generating interest and enthusiasm to help move our initiatives forward. Couple that with fiscal management, daily meetings and attendance at campus events, and I find my calendar both full and fulfilling.    

What initiatives have you been a part of in your five years at PUC?

I have had the pleasure and privilege of being part of a team that brought several new initiatives to campus. One event, Student Convocation, held during the first week of class, brings together all members of the campus community for an informal conversation with faculty and staff, lunch on the lawn, music, food, entertainment and a resource fair.

We also established a Student Assessment Behavioral Team that meets weekly to address student needs. I am particularly proud of these colleagues in terms of the quality care they provide and the consistent message they send.  I am convinced that this team has enabled some students who might not have been able to remain at PUC to be successful here.

Another initiative called Spring Break-thru provides students with opportunities to be engaged in local, regional, national or international communities by living, learning and giving back during their spring break vacations.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Interacting with members of the campus community and being able to make a difference in the lives of others. I have long felt that we are on this earth to make life easier, richer and more fulfilling for one another. Although I may not be able to grant all requests, over the years I have generally been able to provide assistance in some way or another. That has been extremely rewarding.

Can you share a memorable moment from your time at PUC?

I am particularly proud of the collaborative efforts that have resulted in the expansion of both our residential and athletic programs. In 2009 we had a ribbon-cutting ceremony at University Village, Phase II, and we've added four new sports to our athletic program. In my mind, the addition of housing and the expansion of athletics have transformed our campus.

Beyond the programmatic rewards, student success stories have kept me doing what I do for all these years. One student, who had struggled at PUC, told me he was really looking forward to walking across the stage to receive his diploma, and that he couldn't wait to wear an alumni sweatshirt. I shook his hand and told him I'd be there to hand him an alumni sweatshirt when he walked across that stage.  Sure enough, when he received his diploma, I presented him with a sweatshirt. A month later, I saw him, and despite the summer heat, he was wearing that sweatshirt!

What are your plans after leaving PUC?

My twin sister, Missy, and I decided several years ago that we would retire together. In 1990 we bought a lot in The Galena Territory in Galena, Illinois, and have been developing plans for a house nearly that long. Missy will move in this month and I will join her in July. Neither of us are ones to sit still for very long, so we'll find part-time jobs, volunteer and travel. We just added a riverboat tour of Europe to our ever-growing list of things to do.

I heard you used to figure skate. Is that something on your list?

Well, Missy and I grew up skating in Montana, but when we moved to Washington, we gave it up because there wasn't a rink nearby. While at Vanderbilt, I started taking lessons again, competed in ice dance and was asked to teach. I coached students ranging in age from 4 to 62 for 12 years.

A rink has just opened in Dubuque, Iowa, which is less than 30 minutes from our new home. We're thrilled as we both plan to continue skating and are looking forward to teaching as well.