COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — Mark Whitesel comes to Columbus State University with a wealth of life experience in helping students deal with college life.

Whitesel is the new Associate Vice President and Dean of Students for CSU. He comes from Georgia Southern University in Statesboro.

He sat down with WRBL for this week’s Sunday Conversation.

He talked about the move to Columbus and what his job requires.

Here’s a news release Columbus State put out recently announcing Whitesel’s hiring.

Advocate. Champion. Conduit. Problem-solver. Conflict-resolver. Troubleshooter. These are ways Dr. Mark Whitesel describes his new role as Columbus State University’s associate vice president and dean of students. Whitesel began his duties on Sept. 18 after a student affairs career that spans more than two decades.

“For any role in Student Affairs — the dean of students, especially — students are at the heart of what we do. So, to me, a dean of students is a point of advocacy for student needs and interests — or someone to help students navigate a difficult time or unanticipated personal or academic situation,” Whitesel explained. “I also see the dean of students being the conduit for bringing students’ needs and concerns to senior administration.”

Why would a student seek out the dean of students? Whitesel admitted not every student will want to start that conversation face to face, which is where he said the university’s well-being programs or Create Care reports provide other opportunities to connect with the dean of students. But, for those who do want to talk with a person, Whitesel’s door is open.

“Maybe you have a personal concern, or maybe you have a friend or classmate who’s struggling. Maybe you’ve got an issue with someone else on campus or you’re having a difficult time relating to a classmate or an instructor. Maybe you have a complaint, or you feel you’ve been treated unfairly,” he answered. “In that case, you can walk in my office anytime and connect with my team or me for guidance.”

In conjunction with his professional duties, as well as in part due to his own interests and values, Whitesel has been involved with organizations over the years that address community homelessness. Homelessness, and the myriad factors that contribute to this rising issue, are concerns he brings into his role as dean of students.

“More and more across the country, we’re seeing students dealing with financial, housing and food insecurities,” he said. “Even on our campus, there’s work to be done helping students navigate these challenges and to provide as much support as we can. I want my office to be a place where students feel comfortable and safe enough to talk about those and other concerns that threaten their quality of life and their academic success.”

Like at most universities, Columbus State’s dean of students wears many hats. Those include helping students engage in services that ensure academic success and connect with campus activities and leadership opportunities. With less than a week on the job, he’s using those same avenues to get acquainted with the student body.