Minnesota native Christina Olstad is “thrilled” to begin her new position as dean of students at UW-Madison starting this semester.
“As I read through the job description, my level of excitement just began to rise,” Olstad said.
With almost two decades of administrative experience in higher education, Olstad started her career at Augsburg University where she received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and then at the University of Vermont where she received her PhD degree.
Before coming to UW-Madison, she worked as Interim Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs, Housing & Residence Life at Towson University.
“All of my experience to this point, you know nearly 20 years, have led me to where I am today and I am honored to serve students at UW-Madison,” Olstad said.
Olstad feels her commitment to social justice and inclusion that she developed in the past parallels the Wisconsin Idea.
“[The Wisconsin Idea] is this whole concept of ‘educating students and also enterprising the faculty and staff to make the world a better place’,” Olstad said.
She also sees the importance for her to undergird the conversation on campus as the dean of students.
“The Wisconsin Idea is crucial to the university as a whole, but I see a strong role that the Dean of Student plays in the functional areas within the dean of students to infuse the Wisconsin Idea in everything we do,” Olstad said.
This has led to her goals that will enhance students’ well-being on campus in the near future, such as normalizing mental health and pushing for greater financial literacy.
“There are certain things that I’m naturally very passionate about, making sure students are connected to the appropriate resources and support so that they can thrive on campus. So we need to examine: Where are the gaps? How can we elevate those and where are we losing students? Where the students falling through the cracks?” Olstad said.
Yet, it takes time to meet her goals as she is on her way of transitioning.
“Because you are coming into an environment, building relationships, connections, honoring the work you’ve done in the past and looking at how can we meet the needs that are present for our students,” Olstad said.
But Olstad knows she is not on her own. She views the collaboration is critical to carve out a sustainable path for students’ health on campus.
“Working not within the division but across the division to impact that experience and it is so important to create an inclusive environment for all students to be able to try and all students to be able to learn and if students are not feeling safe or won’t included, they can’t thrive on campus,” Olstad said.
When talking about her vision, Olstad is excited to serve the community and become a Badger.
“I’m humbled and I’m honored to be able to be in this role,” Olstad said. “I look forward to connecting students and colleagues and how to enhance the Wisconsin experience.”