Patricia Telles-Irvin wants to see you smile. Not in the creepy kind of way. But, you know, in a welcoming lets-be-friends kind of way.
And it’s hard not to smile around Telles-Irvin, the new Vice President of Student Affairs, who starred as the first guest of ASG President Austin Young’s series of special interest roundtables.
The culture of shyness, Telles-Irvin told a group of 12 undergraduates Thursday evening, is one of her biggest concerns. “When I walk across campus, not many people look up and say hello,” she said. And these cultural concerns are what she hopes to tackle first.
The group gathered Thursday evening in the Rebecca Crown Center’s posh Hardin Hall, looked down upon by elegant paintings of NU presidents past, for an intimate chat with the Vice President, now six months at Northwestern.
Eight of the 12 guests were Greek and Telles-Irvin, known affectionately as PTI, was Greek herself, a Kappa Alpha Theta at Duke University, so the conversation naturally flowed toward Greek culture.
Telles-Irvin told the group she recently toured a number of fraternity houses, including those on “Peanut Row,” referring to the houses along Lincoln Avenue, and was startled by the condition of the buildings.
“I was surprised to see so many men in fraternities living next to boarded-up houses and condemned property,” she said. “I don’t feel comfortable having our students living next to that… I’m trying really hard to get them out of that area.”
Medill junior Brad Stewart, president of Delta Upsilon at Northwestern, a roundtable participant and the previous Interfraternity Council Director of Public Relations, told Telles-Irvin he recently oversaw renovations to his chapter’s house, and the effect on culture, he said, was undeniable.
Telles-Irvin agreed with the implication. Renovating physical space, she said, contributes to an improvement in attitude and culture.
On that note, Telles-Irvin explicitly named a new student center one of her top priorities and is perhaps one of the only administrators to endorse the initiative with such forwardness. “Students are frustrated,” she recognized candidly. By late fall, she told the group, Student Affairs will be in a position to make decisions about the future of Norris and a new center. Her department will bring in experts to refresh a 2006 needs assessment of Norris and decide from there.
Along the same lines, Student Affairs will develop a housing master plan to map the future of both on- and off-campus housing options. Telles-Irvin said she hopes to see more students living on-campus in the future, and announced Foster House and the College of Cultural Studies will undergo renovations this summer to improve facilities and entice more students.
Before the hour discussion’s end, Telles-Irvin also indicated she’d like to see newer technologies brought to Northwestern, particularly a system to electronically submit and track residential complaints and a new roommate matching system.
The student guests were quick to highlight CAESAR as a point of frequent technology-based frustration.
“If I had five million dollars to spend on one thing,” SESP sophomore David Harris told her, “I’d spend it on that.” Telles-Irvin nodded quite emphatically in response.
Thursday’s chat was the first of many such special interest roundtables planned by ASG. Trustee Phil Harris is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 21, and ASG is confirming Coach Fitzgerald for a later date.
NBN welcomes Matt Bellassai, former ASG Presidential candidate and Public Relations Vice President, as Special ASG Correspondent this quarter. Please see our note on his coverage.