When Rosa Rivera-Hainaj, PhD, started exploring new job options earlier this year, something about McDaniel really stood out to her.
“I had McDaniel’s posting printed on my desk for a while, and I just kept going back to it. I was able to visualize myself there,” said Rivera-Hainaj.
Rivera-Hainaj joined the McDaniel leadership team as Provost in July 2021, and she has been working hard to make the transition as smooth as possible for herself and everyone around her since.
“The warm welcome from faculty, staff, board of trustees members, and students has been amazing. As with any transition to a new position, there’s a lot of learning to do. The past month and a half I’ve been focussed on getting myself situated, [handling] the things I can handle right away, and start thinking strategically about the major things we need to take care of,” said Rivera-Hainaj.
After spending ten years in the classroom all over the country, Rivera-Hainaj started looking for ways to reach a wider audience and make a greater impact. Serving as associate vice president of academic affairs at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, Texas, presented her the leadership development opportunities that would bring her to The Hill.
“I started to wonder where I could spread my wings more professionally, and I felt that the way to do that was to join administration,” she said.
“It’s been a twisty road, but everybody has a journey. Some people have a journey that is very short to get to the level to where they are. Others, we have to figure out exactly what we’re trying to do,” Rivera-Hainaj added.
Once Rivera-Hainaj becomes more comfortable with her new role, she is excited to learn from the past and prepare for the future.
“I always try to learn when things could have been done a different way and why, with the hope that it will become useful. It’s also a gut feeling. You learn to interact with people from different backgrounds and positions in life, and you know that you might have to address things from different angles. Not only to understand where they are coming from, but for them to understand where you come from, too,” she said.
When it comes to McDaniel, Rivera-Hainaj pinpoints several aspects that drew her to The Hill.
“One of the things that really caught my attention was the diversity, equity and inclusion work. That stood out to all the other places I was exploring. It was more than just a statement… you could go and look at the activities and work that was actually happening. It was like walking the talk,” Rivera-Hainaj said.
“McDaniel has the potential to become the model of what it is to transition regarding so many areas, and serve students, faculty, and staff from more diverse backgrounds. You can have the old things, but you can also have the new things too,” she added.
In addition to McDaniel’s commitment to DEI, Rivera-Hainaj also appreciated the College’s warmness and tight-knit nature.
“I grew up in a college environment. My father was a college professor, and that was one of the things [about McDaniel] that really appealed to me: the collegiality of the institution. Even when I came to interview, you could feel the sense of community amongst the people I got to interact with, and it was genuine,” said Rivera-Hainaj.
One of Rivera-Hainaj’s first steps is doing assessments to create a baseline for where the college is currently, assess what actions create impact in student’s lives and find points of collaboration.
“Dr. Jasken has done amazing work when she was the provost and a lot of things are in place to continue the work. My main goal is to look at how students progress through their academic journey, make sure they are graduating in a timely manner, and set up a framework for student success that will catapult our student’s retention and graduation rates,” said Rivera-Hainaj.
Besides first steps, Rivera-Hainaj also has ideas for more long term goals.
“In the future, I want to have more interactions between athletics and academic areas, expand our center for experience and opportunity and reach to truly be a bridge between academic and campus life to support students on both sides. I’m trying to have synergy amongst the programs that we have, so they feed off of each other and avoid redundancies,” she said.
Rivera-Hainaj thanks a strong support system for their assistance during this transition period for so many.
“I’m so grateful to have so many people around me that have been here for a while, so I’m able to learn from them if I have questions or concerns. That’s always helpful,” said Rivera-Hainaj.
“It’s been a really enjoyable start of the fall! I look forward to interacting with students as much as possible. One of my main goals is to really get engaged with the student body and the faculty. As provost, most of the time you’re taking care of faculty, but I want to take care of students too. I love interacting with students, and my promise to the student body is that you will see me on campus. They’re the reason I joined academia; students keep us young,” said Rivera-Hainaj.
Students interested in reaching out can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit with her for “Lunch with the Provost” in Englar Dining Hall on Sept. 21, October 12, Nov. 16, and Dec. 6.