To go from one place to another on campus, some administrators walk. Others would opt for a golf cart. Brent Marsh, however, chooses to longboard around campus.
“At a prior university, the policy where students were allowed to ride skateboards had been prohibited for a while,” Marsh said. “Once that policy changed through the student government’s leadership, I thought it’d be fun to join in with the students who were also enjoying their newfound opportunity to ride skateboards on campus.”
Marsh became the university’s new assistant vice chancellor of student affairs and dean of students after Melinda Sutton Noss resigned last semester to take a similar position at her alma mater, Southern Methodist University.
Marsh, who previously worked at Rogers State University in Oklahoma and Howard Payne University in Texas, said that he’s been interested in student affairs since he was a resident assistant at Kansas State University.
“I worked at a couple of other universities right out of graduate school,” Marsh said. “I did my doctorate at Bowling Green State, so I was a graduate assistant … at that university for a couple of years.”
Marsh said that while he was at Rogers State, he started looking for opportunities to advance and try something new when he came across Ole Miss.
“The more I looked into it, the more excited I got about the possibilities here. (In) some ways, I felt that I could bring my experiences to hopefully be helpful and supportive to the students and to the university but also to have some new professional challenges and opportunities,” Marsh said.
Marsh said that he faced challenges when he started his new job at UM, including adjusting to the learning curve and understanding processes and procedures.
“I think that the biggest challenge is having to be patient with myself (knowing) that all the things that I want to be able to know and be supportive of (will) take a little time to figure out … because you want to get to a place and make a bigger difference as soon as possible and support the students and the student experience as soon as possible,” Marsh said.
Marsh said that his goals for the university are to enhance the student experience and to get to know the student body. He said that he’s always tried to be a good communicator and to let students know that he’s always available to talk.
“I try to always operate with an open-door policy,” Marsh said. “If my door’s open and I’m not hooked in meetings or immersed in a project, I’m trying to make myself available to focus on the students.”
Marsh said he believes that leading by example is very important for the student body, and he hopes that he is someone the student body can look up to.
“I’ve always tried to be a hard worker and operate with high levels of ethics and professionalism and hopefully treat people the way I want to be treated,” he said. “I hope by role-modeling that kind of professional behavior that (it) would set a good example for others.”
Something Marsh said students could improve is the way they represent the university. Marsh referenced game days and students’ rowdy behavior while tailgating in the Grove.
“I’ve gotten information where there (are) some times where maybe we haven’t always been the best ambassadors for our university,” Marsh said. “I would love to see people have so much pride in their institution that they always want to reflect well.”
While he has only worked at the university for a few months, he said that he feels that he’s already learned a lot.
“I think the more you go through life, you realize how much you don’t know, and I think this has just been one more of those opportunities for me,” Marsh said.
Marsh added that when he came to Ole Miss, he thought that he had a good mix of administrative skills and a desire to build good relationships with students.
“I think it’s important that whatever level we are in the university organization chart, that we’re approachable and friendly and ready to engage with students,” Marsh said.
Marsh also said that he’s excited for what’s to come as he continues to work with the rest of the university administration.
“It’s really about finding yourself in a place where you can sort of operate confidently and professionally, moving your part of the organization forward and knowing that you’ve got colleagues and students all across campus that are also doing that and just working to advance the university together,” Marsh said.