Danita Brown planned to be a math teacher.
But during a teaching practicum her sophomore year at Kent State University, she found herself focused less on the chalkboard and more on her students’ lives outside the classroom.
“There were a lot of broken homes and systems,” she said.
Brown’s passion for the outside-the-classroom piece of education led her to a career in campus life and student affairs.
This summer, she will become the University of Minnesota’s new dean of students.
It’s a job that involves ensuring “a mutually reinforcing relationship between the academic and nonacademic life of students,” provost Karen Hanson wrote in an e-mail to students and staff announcing the pick.
Assuming she gets the OK from the U’s Board of Regents, she will succeed Jerry Rinehart, who is retiring.
Brown, who earned her Ph.D. at Ohio University, comes to Minnesota from Purdue University, where she was dean of students.
The job here, which also carries the title “vice provost for student affairs,” offers her “an expanded portfolio,” Brown said by phone, including oversight of the student health center.
She started at Purdue in 2008 as associate dean of students and became dean in March 2011.
Purdue’s student government president, Kyle Pendergast, praised Brown for her response to a recent hate crime on campus. After investigating, she teamed up with students to create a creed meant to unite them around their obligations to one another and move the university forward, he said.
Brown is an outgoing and “very well-liked” administrator, Pendergast said. She meets monthly with student leaders, he said, and works to “maintain that relationship.”
While in Minneapolis this week for a conference — plus a little house-hunting — Brown scheduled breakfast with two U student leaders.
Students should know that “I am their advocate,” she said. “I am the one at the table fighting for them.”
Jenna Ross • 612-673-7168