Alumni Margaret A. Jablonski hopes to get appointment and come “full circle”

By Chris Shores

On Friday, Feb. 5, Margaret A. Jablonski, vice chancellor for student affairs at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, spoke at the University of Massachusetts in a student-only open session and at one for the general public.

During the student session, Jablonski said she was “honored” to be one of the four finalists up for the position of UMass vice chancellor of student affairs and campus life. She said if hired, the experience would be personally meaningful as the appointment would come “full circle” and signify her return to UMass.

In 1981, Jablonski received her bachelor of arts in history as an undergraduate at UMass. Three years later, she also received her masters in education degree at UMass, researching organizational behavior and legal issues in higher education.

She then returned to UMass in 1997 for two years to serve as a visiting assistant professor in education, policy, research and administration.

“To come back at this point in my career would be the way that I could give back,” said Jablonski. “I’ve been a student affairs person, I’ve been a faculty member and I’m an alum of this University.”
She then shared with the students present some of her experiences as vice chancellor of student affairs at UNC-Chapel Hill, where she has worked for the past six years.

Jablonski said that in student affairs, they built $185 million worth of what she called “capital projects,” including a new residential area, a family housing complex for grad students, a student services building, a dining hall and a recreation center.

“We’ve been able to put together a whole new series of student life building and projects that have really made a difference to the students,” she said. “That demanded a lot of oversight, a lot of planning. [We had to make] sure that the campus flowed well together and that we protected green space and paid attention to sustainability.”

At UNC, Jablonski helped implement open office hours in the vice chancellor’s office, something that she would bring here if appointed. UNC also formed a “Student Affairs Leadership Council,” which Jablonski meets with monthly. 

She stressed the importance for dialogue with the students, especially on issues of money.

“As we look at budget cuts and resource realignment, we have to know what’s important to you,” she said. “What are your ideas on how we should be utilizing our resources?”

“We’re managing your money and we’re responsible for your money,” she added. “When I get into debates [with other administration members], I tell them, ‘Remember, it’s their money. We need to hear their voices. They may not be always right but they have opinions that need to be heard.’”

Jablonski opened the floor for questions. One student asked if she would promote Greek life on campus if elected.

The candidate, who served as the director of Greek affairs during her undergraduate and graduate time at UMass, said she would do her part in supporting fraternities and sororities.

“If the Greek system is viable and managing itself well … it should be supported,” she said.

Two of the students in attendance asked how she would work to promote diversity in student affairs.

“I think it’s really important that every area of student affairs has programs and initiatives that address broadly all areas of diversity,” she said. “Each area should have their goals and strategies around hiring a diverse staff and looking at their programs to make sure they are meeting the needs of a diverse population.”

Jablonski was asked how areas of student conduct and discipline were handled at UNC. The candidate responded by describing a student-run system that handles judicial issues. She said that she would not look to bring that to UMass immediately.

“Each campus has its own culture and traditions,” she said. “But I think what would be helpful here is to have a conversation about how to promote more educational sanctions and also how to involve students in the judicial process in a more active way.”

Chris Shores can be reached at [email protected]