Office hours encourage student proposals

This fall marks the sixth semester of president Dennis Ahlburg’s office hours. Ahlburg came to Trinity in January 2010 after former president John Brazil retired and introduced this initiative to increase campus dialogue.

Ahlburg started his office hours policy during his time at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He decided to continue his office hours at Trinity in order to foster communication between himself and the rest of campus.

“The motivation is to hear what’s on people’s minds; it is really easy to become kind of distanced from the students and faculty,” Ahlburg said.  “Essentially I’m here to make things better for students and faculty, so, if I don’t talk to them, I don’t know what’s on their minds, other than the food in Mabee.”

Claire Smith, executive assistant to the president and assistant secretary to the Board of Trustees, coordinates the office hour meetings. According to Smith, weekly attendance fluctuates but has stayed consistent over the years.

“Attendance ebbs and flows, depending on the president’s schedule and other factors,” Smith said.

Smith acknowledges Ahlburg’s demanding schedule, which includes travel away from the university and sometimes even abroad. When someone wants to meet with the president, she works around the schedules of both individuals and tries to find a time that is mutually agreed upon.

While the conversations Ahlburg conducts with visitors are confidential, Smith says that the president discusses a myriad of issues. In the past, participants have proposed projects, chatted on behalf of their club or organization, raised awareness about a campus issue or simply come by the office to say “hello.”

Ahlburg, too, has noticed the range of subjects covered during his office hours.

“Sometimes people just come because they’ve never met the president. Sometimes some people come because they don’t know what happens, and they’re just curious. Sometimes it’s about the world, sometimes it’s about personal stuff and sometimes it’s about the university,” Ahlburg said.

Senior Sal Perdomo recently visited the president during office hours in order to gain the president’s perspective on the proposed activity time block.

“Dr. Ahlburg has been very helpful during this entire activity time block proposal process. Dr. Tynes and I met with him twice, and he was responsive,” Perdomo said.

Junior Christopher Alexander has not attended either but says he would speak about economics with the president. Alexander is pursuing a major in theoretical economics, in addition to others.

“He  seems like an interesting person, and I am interested in his professional background as well,” Alexander said.

Smith believes that an even level of students, faculty and staff attend the office hours.

“Between these three arms, there really is an equal balance,” Smith said. “This is the campus’ opportunity to meet with the president on whatever topic they wish.”

Historically, however, there have been no regulars. Ahlburg sees two individuals every week, one in the morning and another in the afternoon. Smith also attempts to schedule the meetings so that there is one meeting Monday-Wednesday-Friday and a second on Tuesday-Thursday.

Ahlburg’s office hours are published daily in LeeRoy, Trinity’s online newsletter, and through TigerPaws as well. Appointments must be made through Smith at [email protected].