Q&A with the interim dean of students, Dr. Gregory Roper

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Dr. Roper, the interim Dean of Students, in front of his office in upstairs Haggar. Photo by Annabelle Nicholas

Dr. Gregory Roper, associate professor of English, assumed the responsibilities of the dean of students as an interim on Aug. 6, 2021. As an esteemed member among his peers, both in Irving and Rome, he is the first faculty member to take this position in decades.   

The University News had the opportunity to sit down with Roper and discuss his duties, experiences, and interesting quirks that make up his position as the interim dean. 

Q. “When were you named interim dean of students, and what position did you hold before then?”

A. “I assumed full responsibilities on August 6th.  Before that I was – and remain – Associate Professor of English.  I think I am the first faculty member to hold this position in a long time– perhaps decades.” 

Q. “What are your duties as interim dean of students?”

A. “I oversee the Office of Student Affairs, the Counseling Center, and the Health Clinic.  The Office of Student Affairs involves Housing, Residence Life, and Student Activities.  Broadly, this wonderful, professional team deals with many aspects of life on campus, from where and how you live to the activities in which you participate.  But it’s important to see that all of this flows from, and funnels into, the academic life that is the ‘raison d’etre’ of the student being at the University of Dallas.  We are a university, not a summer camp or a hotel, and the academic life is at the forefront of everything we do.  So the Office of Student Life is here to support and supplement that academic life.”

Q. “What makes you different from any of the previous deans?”

A. “A really dumb sense of humor, a love of Chaucer and the Gawain-poet, a tendency to quote G.K. Chesterton, a lack of fine motor skills, and general incompetence.”

Q. “What are your goals as interim dean of students?”

A. “I would love to see us bring a sense of Chestertonian and Tolkienian adventure and play to our lives together on campus.  I would love to see the wisdom of the Core penetrate the daily lives of students, so that students see the Core and its wisdom as having a direct impact on their attempts to achieve eudaimonia, the well-lived life.  (Please notice I did not in the previous sentence use the word ‘impact’ as a verb.  One of my primary goals as interim Dean of Students is to make sure no one in my office ever uses ‘impact’ as a verb.)  The Core and Catholic anthropology have such broad and deep resources for helping students figure out the important questions of their lives, and I would like to help students see their daily struggles, stresses, anxieties– and triumphs – in new and rich ways that the Core and Catholic anthropology provide.” 

Q. “How do you live the university’s core values in this position?”

A. “Uhhh….  usually, I get up, exercise, have a cup of tea, and get to work…!

More seriously?  I have a quotation still on my Braniff office door from the Orthodox Bishop of London, and it says – I’m going to misquote it because I don’t have it in front of me: ‘the only person in your life right now is the person in front of you, and the only thing for you to do is to do, right now, what is right and charitable for that person.’  Then he goes on to say: ‘That way there can never be circumstances that prevent you from praying.’ Ora et labora, no?”

Q. “How do you personally connect with students?”

A. “I imagine most of them would say: ‘very badly;’ I’m actually something of an introvert.  But a long time ago I discovered that I find college-aged students interesting and weird and frustrating and baffling and thrilling, so I keep hanging around and annoying them with my presence.  I wish I had St. Philip Neri’s gifts in this department, and keep praying to him to teach me how he did it.  So far, he’s apparently had other people’s prayers to forward on to the Holy Spirit…” 

Q. “How has Covid-19 affected your experience in this position?”

A. “Hah! You make me laugh. Next question.”

Q. “What are your plans after this period in your life?”

A. “Well, my dream was always to play in an attacking midfield role for the Brazilian national soccer team, so maybe I’ll give that a shot next.  I’d settle for the Dutch, though – sometimes I look pretty good in orange.” 

According to Dr. Tammy Leonard, the interim provost, “The Dean of Students’ role at UD, really requires someone to wear a lot of hats — and even more so during the Covid-19 pandemic. Dr. Roper has done a marvelous job. He has enthusiastically embraced the many challenges of the job with a tremendous amount of energy and dedication.”

Roper is expected to continue to work as the interim through the fall semester while the search for the new permanent dean of students continues forward at a rapid pace. Finalists for the position are expected to visit campus in the coming weeks.

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