New UNK Senior Vice-Chancellor focuses on student support – UNK News

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By Tyler Ellyson
Communications UNK

KEARNEY – There was one moment that shaped Kristen Majocha’s entire career as an educator and administrator.

She was 36 at the time, a mother of three, enrolled in a doctoral program class at Duquesne University, a private Catholic school in Pittsburgh.

Majocha looked around and saw other students wearing expensive clothes and carrying designer bags. She had her “brown mom shoes”.

“I was embarrassed,” Majocha said. “I thought, ‘I don’t belong here. I don’t fit in.

Duquesne is not a cheap school and his family did not have enough money to contribute as donors. So how did she end up with a full scholarship?

That’s the question she posed to her advisor, who smiled, then explained how Majocha fit into the university’s mission. Each year, program officials award a scholarship to a qualified student who could not attend Duquesne without this financial support. They chose the 36-year-old mother of three.

“I never forgot that,” Majocha said. “And I carry that on my heart everywhere I go. I feel compelled to give back in this way.

As the new Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, Majocha is committed to breaking down educational barriers students may face and helping Lopers overcome any obstacles that stand between them. and success.

LEARN TO LEARN

Majocha grew up in an economically deprived area of ​​western Pennsylvania.

For a long time, college was not part of his plan.

“I didn’t want to go,” she said. “I wasn’t prepared. It wasn’t on my radar screen.

However, his mother and father, a U.S. Navy and Vietnam War veteran, saw higher education as the path to a promising future.

“It was important to them,” Majocha said. “They wanted me to have a better life and better working conditions than them. In their minds, a college degree would do that for me and my siblings. And it was true.

After high school, Majocha enrolled at nearby Slippery Rock University as a first-generation student and recipient of the Federal Pell Scholarship. His mother attended classes concurrently at Point Park University in downtown Pittsburgh and later earned a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Pittsburgh.

A provisional admission student, Majocha struggled with writing and math, and she had very little scientific knowledge.

“Every class I took, I had to start from scratch,” she said. “I had nothing to draw on. Everything was new to me.

“I had to fight twice as hard to go half as far.”

Less than three years into his undergraduate studies, Majocha left school to join the navy. She served as an air traffic control aviator, stationed in Tennessee, for just under a year and was discharged early to face the untimely death of her father.

Determined to complete her education, Majocha took one course at a time over the next 11 years while working and raising a family. In 2002, she obtained a bachelor’s degree in communication.

“Once I figured out how to learn, how to study, how to take notes and how to get help, I realized that I love learning and I’m really good at it,” Majocha said.

And she wanted to pass that passion on to others, especially students who come from similar situations.

Majocha earned a master’s degree in rhetoric and philosophy of communication from Duquesne before completing her doctorate in rhetoric in 2009.

She worked at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown from 2006 to 2018, serving as Associate Professor, Department Chair, Director of International Programs Support and Services, and Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs. Among her accomplishments, she led a team that increased international student retention by 50% and overall student retention by 6%, oversaw a review of the general education curriculum, and worked with management to improve rates. 5% graduation rate.

From 2018-22, Majocha served as Dean at the University of California, Pennsylvania, where she led a reorganization of campus undergraduate colleges from three colleges to two with shared governance. This change resulted in annual savings of more than $1 million.

Majocha also played a key role in the development of Pennsylvania Western University.

OPERATOR LOVE

Although her career began in the East, Majocha imagined herself in the Midwest for many years.

She fell in love with the area while on a research trip to Idaho, Montana and Wyoming and interviewed for a job in Colorado about five years ago.

His introduction to UNK came at the 2016 NCAA Division II Wrestling Championships in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Majocha was on the floor, photographing the Pitt-Johnstown team, when a Loper wrestler was announced on another mat. She describes the ensuing scene as a “sea of ​​blue shirts” – parents, students, community members and other fans all standing together and chanting UNK, UNK.

“Wow, that’s how you support a team,” she thought to herself.

“I was just overwhelmed,” Majocha said. “It’s a student-centered school that loves its students.”

Majocha was offered a job in Wyoming earlier this year, but she turned it down because she wasn’t the right fit. The following Monday, after driving back to Pennsylvania, she received an email about the opening of UNK and immediately remembered that moment from 2016.

“It’s the job I really wanted,” she said. “I love UNK. Every step of the way was right. In my belly, in my heart, and in my soul, it was right. And here I am.”

Majocha accepted the post of Senior Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs in April and moved to Kearney this summer with her husband Darrin and four children – Gunner, 24; Mitchell, 22; Sydney, 20; and Alyssa, 15. She also brought 10 chickens, three cats, two dogs and two ducks.

“There are no kennels that take chickens, by the way. I tried,” she says with a smile.

She officially started at UNK on July 1, replacing Charlie Bicak, who retired after 13 years in the role.

CAMPUS COMMITMENT

The first two months of work included “a lot of learning” for Majocha, who met with fellow administrators, faculty, staff and community members to discuss challenges and opportunities for UNK and Kearney.

She’s excited about the “outstanding” academic programs and faculty on campus, as well as the university system’s commitment to serving students and addressing statewide issues such as workforce development. -work.

“This commitment to improving Nebraska is infectious,” she said. “Who doesn’t want to be on a winning team?”

As UNK’s Academic Director, she is focused on the Higher Education Commission’s reaccreditation visit next year and developing strategic initiatives that support the university’s mission while respecting the state resources.

“In a tough registration environment, you just find ways to get things done,” she said. “If one solution doesn’t work, we find another that does. When it is mission-focused, when it serves students, and when it enhances the long-term stability of our institution, I have no problem making those tough decisions.

Working with deans, Majocha plans to evaluate academic programs to ensure they meet current and future student and state needs. This includes identifying emerging programs “where the jobs don’t even exist yet.”

“Are we thinking five, 10, 20 years? Do we have a programming vision? she explained.

Majocha is a champion of the teacher-scholar model, where faculty research enhances classroom instruction, students participate in research and other experiential learning opportunities with their teachers, and the results inform best practices in the labor market.

Like her predecessor, she is also very involved on campus. You’ll see her at sporting events, fine arts shows, conferences, research presentations, and other UNK and community gatherings.

Majocha describes herself as an “all-in-one girl”, someone who is willing to give it her all to achieve her goals.

“This job is rewarding for me,” she said. “I love what I do and I want to be here.”

PHOTOS BY ERIKA PRITCHARD, UNK COMMUNICATIONS



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