For the first time in 12 years, Miami University’s Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Dennis Roberts will not be sitting in Harrison Hall as the senior adviser for Associated Student Government (ASG).
Instead, beginning in November he will be sitting in an office in Qatar working with officials from some of America’s top universities; such as Cornell University, Georgetown University and Carnegie Mellon University, among others; in an effort to cultivate learning in the Middle East with the Education City Qatar Foundation.
As the newly appointed vice president for education at the foundation, Roberts says he will be involved with the oversight, budgeting and coordination of the six current and any future campuses associated with the Qatar Foundation, a fast-growing organization that Roberts says has a “phenomenal vision.”
Roberts described the Qatar Foundation as an organization that selects top universities from all over the world to offer one of their premier programs of study; for example, Cornell is bringing its medical program, Georgetown is offering international relations and diplomacy and foreign affairs, and Northwestern University will be bringing journalism, among others, to the 2,000 students currently enrolled there. It is an effort by the Qatar government to make their citizens some of the most educated people in the world. Roberts said the foundation, which is only six years old, is hoping to increase the number of universities involved with the program from six to 12-15 in the near future.
Because of this vision, when Roberts, who has been at Miami since 1994, was contacted by the foundation in late June, he said it was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.
“I’ve enjoyed my time at Miami immensely,” he said. “I thought I would stay at Miami permanently. But when (the Education City Qatar Foundation) came along it was so compelling, I realized I wanted to be part of something like that.”
Another perk for taking the job is Roberts’ daughter, Darbi, who will be working with the foundation through Carnegie Mellon University, although Roberts has stated that their decisions to come to Education City were totally independent of each other.
Miami’s Vice President of Student Affairs Richard Nault, who has worked with Roberts in the Office of Student Affairs since 1994, is one of many Miamians who will miss his presence on campus.
“Denny was passionate about nourishing student leadership,” Nault said. “He was a strong adviser for Associated Student Government, and has worked well with a lot of our leadership groups on campus.”
Nault, who will be leaving Miami himself when he retires this summer, said his successor would be finding Roberts’ replacement sometime next year.
Student Body President Jens SutmÃ¶ller, who has identified Roberts as both a mentor and friend, is also sad to see ASG’s longtime adviser go.
“He didn’t mandate decisions, he gave us info to facilitate our own decisions,” SutmÃ¶ller said. “If we had a question for him, he would kick it back to us and make us answer it. He allowed us to learn, instead of telling us what to do.”
ASG will replace Roberts with both Nault and Miami’s Director of Student Activities and Leadership Gary Manka. Nault will work with the majority of ASG, while Manka will concentrate primarily on funding issues.
For Roberts, a man in his 60s who feels every person on campus has leadership potential, this move to Qatar may be difficult, but it is just another stepping stone to accomplishing his dreams, all while watching Miami grow from the sidelines.
“I’ve advocated with students for a long time that they pursue their own dreams … I stand by that advice, and I really feel good about leaving,” he said. “President (David) Hodge is bringing new energy to Miami’s campus … and Miami students are highly validated, highly skilled in terms of communication ability, and they’re here to learn, that’s the kind of student I absolutely love working with.”