By: Anthony Mottley, Staff Writer
After serving in a variety of roles in student development, the University of Michigan-Dearborn has promoted Amy Finley to the newly created position of Dean of Students. It’s a role for which Finley is uniquely qualified. Prior to the appointment, Finley was serving as the university’s Director of Student Success.
UM-Dearborn has never had a Dean of Students. By choosing Finley to serve in the role, the university selected someone with a passion for helping students make the most of what UM-D has to offer.
In an interview with Finley, she says won’t allow her Michigan State roots interfere with her responsibilities on the Maize and Blue campus–except when it comes to athletic competition. “I really do bleed green and white, but when the game ends, that’s that.” Finley says, “I believe we have a wonderful institution here. I think the most important thing is for people to go where they fit in. As an undergraduate and doctoral student, that was Michigan State, but for our students, we hope that we create an environment where they want to be here.”
Finley says that student life should complement the students’ academic opportunities. She believes it’s her units responsibility to help students not just earn their degree.
“My new job is to make sure students know about access resources, services, programs and opportunities to grow and boost their college experience.” Finley says, “My number one goal is how do we grow that work. How do we communicate that work better so that more students take advantage? Whether it’s employment or tutoring, how do we make sure we are [reaching] every student.
“No matter what your degree is in, leadership transcends academic discipline. Even if you have a 4.0 in mechanical engineering, you better have some leadership and conflict management skills to be successful.”
Findley has the data to back up her claims regarding student success. Within each of the units that report to her, each tracks student participation and progress.
“We look at how many students are involved in tutoring, how many scholarship students we are retaining, [how] their average GPA growing, and we also look at student participation in programs and services,” Finley said.
In her new role as Dean of Students, Finley says she is able to take her seat at the senior leadership table and advocate for key student issues that otherwise wouldn’t get heard.
“My hope is that students will feel comfortable and come to me and share the challenges they’re having or the things that are going great,” Finley said.
Finley is relying on the national research on best practices. Her plan is to implement those practices and examining the outcomes and determining whether or not UM-D is getting results that are in line with the better national results.
Finley said, “If we’re not getting the results that we want, how do we tweak what we are doing?”
According to the UM-D website, Finley received her bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University, a master’s degree in educational leadership in student affairs from Eastern Michigan University, and a Ph.D. in higher, adult and lifelong education from MSU.
Like many undergraduate students, Finley changed her major in her junior year of college. The toughest part was telling her parents that she no longer wanted to pursue a law degree.
“As a young child, I wanted to be an attorney. When I was in college, I went to a pre-law fair and I met some wonderful people, but I realized that I didn’t want to be an attorney,” she said. “The toughest part was breaking the news to my parents.”
Finley’s mid-stream change in her major was a tough but valuable lesson. Finley learned to be true to herself and it allows her to empathize with the students that she serves. This has also helped her survive a nine-year marathon on the way to earn her Ph.D.
Finley says the journey included lots of miles on her car as she raced between East Lansing and Metro Detroit. “I kept a Starbucks and a Tim Horton’s in business. I’m sure they have had to lay some employees off since I graduated.”
For now, Finley will restrict her travel to the buildings on the UM-D campus as she fights to make the college experience better for students. “When I was an undergrad I got involved with a co-ed honor fraternity which led to a position with the national organization consulting and advising students on college campus around the country.”
Finley’s is still fired up about impacting the lives of students. Her passion may be with the Spartan athletic teams, but her heart is in Dearborn. “I have been here for 14-years and I have no plans to go to East Lansing. I love the energy of this campus and the diversity and inclusion. People want to feel like this is a second home. They want to come to school and love it here and I want to make that happen.”