Congratulations to the winter-term graduates! You've worked hard to get to this point, and it will be good to celebrate your success tomorrow in the Kern Center. I have the opportunity to serve as the Master of Ceremonies, which means I get to read off your name as you cross the stage. I also get to deliver some closing remarks as a way of giving completion to the ceremony. In the closing remarks, I quote some lines of poetry by Jack Gilbert:

We think of lifetimes as mostly the exceptional

And sorrows. Marriage we remember as the children,

Vacations, and emergencies. The uncommon parts.

But the best is often when nothing is happening.


Why these lines? Because this, the end of your tenure at MSOE, this ceremony, will not represent the experiences you’ve had as a student. When you went to class, you weren’t dressed up as you are at graduation. Your family and friends were not here to witness the last 4, or 5, years of your life. Instead, you experienced MSOE with your friends, your faculty, the staff members that helped you through the process. It was the study groups, the time spent in labs, the student activities that provided who knows how many gallons of coffee you’ve drunk and how many pounds of pizza you’ve consumed in the last 4 years.

These were the best parts--when nothing was happening--when you had the opportunity to discover who you are and who you have become. That, I believe, is something worth celebrating: the person you have become. For this I congratulate you.


David Howell

The Daily Dean: Raiders!

Posted by David Howell Feb 27, 2014

In high school, I was a Knight. As an undergraduate, I was a Cougar, an Eagle, and a Buccaneer. In graduate school, I was a Nanook, and then I was a Cougar again (different school, same mascot). As a professor, I was a Panther, and for the last 11 years, I've been a Raider.

I like being a Raider. Being a Buccaneer was good training for becoming a Raider; I guess there's something about "raiding", especially if you're playing an away game. And I'm happy not to have an animal as a mascot, because animals make for weird bobble-head dolls. photo.JPG

Last Sunday, I did a 16 mile bike ride. Sure, the sun was out, and the air was refreshing, but it was nothing but cold. I've been riding my bike all winter in my basement on a pair of rollers, and though it's kept me in decent biking condition, it's just not fun anymore. I need to ride outside--I need that sunshine, that vitamin D, that warmth I vaguely remember from seasons past.

I'm a big believer in visualization--in seeing myself finishing a race or accomplishing a goal. I keep visualizing myself mountain biking with my son. It's one of my favorite things to do, and I want to do it now. Soon, the weather will turn, and the sun will come out, and the snow will melt, and it will be warm once again. Soon.

Here's a photo of my son, Evan, when we last went mountain biking in the Southern Kettle Morain.



David Howell

The Daily Dean: Ties

Posted by David Howell Feb 25, 2014

When I became Dean of Students, I decided to become a "tie guy"--one of those guys that always wears a tie to work. I've tried making the conversion several times during the course of my career, but this is the first time it stuck. I've been wondering why this is the case--why now. And I think it has come down to this: it's not about learning how to tie a tie (something, by the way, that I'm still trying to figure out). It's about learning how to wear it. I want to best represent my students and staff, and dressing as professional as I possibly can is part of that process.

I also wonder what is lost in the process of dawning the tie--if the attire creates some sort of visual separation between me and students. But I think it gets back to that notion of "learning how to wear the tie." If I'm comfortable wearing it, then it's not that big of a deal; it becomes a big deal if I let it become a big deal.

I've been wearing a tie to work every day for about 6 months now. I think it gets easier every day; I'm less self-aware of the strip of cloth around my neck. And maybe, a year from now, or years from now, I'll be less aware. And, maybe, I'll have some nicer ties.


It's finals week, and there's a lot of collective stress in our community. Students, staff, and faculty alike have been working pretty hard for quite a while. It's somewhat compounded by the fact that it's winter term finals week, and it's been a particularly challenging winter to endure.

So let's take a break, catch our collective breath, get some perspective, and play CAT BOUNCE! Just click on a cat, make it bounce, and see where it lands. And, look for the hidden easter egg!

My career in higher education reaches back to 1989, when I accepted a job as a Teaching Assistant at The University of Alaska, Fairbanks. Though I didn't really know what I was doing when I taught that first composition class, I was pretty clear about one thing: I loved the university, and I wanted to work in higher education for as long as I possibly could.

So it should be no small surprise that I'm still working in a university setting. As most things in life, I'm either totally committed or somewhat disinterested; when it comes to making the university a great place for our students, well, I'm invested.

I'm also invested in my family: my wonderful wife, two kids, one dog, and three cats. They are the most important "thing" in my life. They are the highest priority.

So it's somewhat serendipitous that my oldest daughter, Kait, is now a freshman in college. She loves college. She's getting great grades and making great friends--basically, she's living the post-secondary dream. It's good to talk to her on the phone and hear how much she loves the university lifestyle; it makes me want to be a better Dean, so every student I work with--every student I am accountable to--can enjoy college as much as Kait does.

Note: here's a photo of Kait and I before we did Ironman Wisconsin last September--that was a good day.


Last November, a group of our students, staff, and alumni teamed up with a group from Lawrence University to install a computer lab at Njala University--in Sierra Leone. It was an amazing project--sponsored by the office of Servant-Leadership. A video was recently posted online that shares the message of the work completed--you can view it at here.


Project: Community Computers

David Howell

The Daily Dean: Bacon!

Posted by David Howell Feb 19, 2014

My wife is out of town on a business trip, so I went to Sendiks and bought a pound of Nueski's Bacon! Granted, my wife is not anti-bacon, but maybe she'd question the quantity of bacon in this morning's breakfast experience.

Why write about bacon in the Daily Dean? Because next year, our students will be living in the new Tower apartment complex, and apartments translates into students cooking their own bacon, bacon, bacon.


Yes, less than a month from now, it will be spring! I've bookmarked the spring tracker--you can view it too. Why do I pine for spring? Because I'm just tired of the cold, and the snow, and I want to watch the trees bud and hear the cardinals sing.

I am encouraged by the ice-cycles (not to be confused with "ice cycles") dangling off the roof of my porch. ice.JPG

In a week or two, the MSOE Digital Marketing Department is going to publish a video about the Dean of Students! The idea behind the video is to introduce me as someone who does more than wear a suit and sit in my office. To check out a preview, go to Dave Howell Interview Preview on Vimeo.

My most memorable Valentine's Day was the first year of my marriage. The year was 1990, we'd just been married in December, and we were living in a one-room cabin in Fairbanks, Alaska (that had no running water) so I could get a masters degree at UAF. I had a night class that ended at ten o'clock in the evening, and when it ended, my friend Elwood Reid (who happens to be the author of What Salmon Know and executive producer of The Bridge) stopped and asked me, "What are your plans for Valentine's?" And I replied, "I have no plans, because we just got out of class, and it's ten at night, and its over."

Brian just looked at me and (literally) shook his head. He asked me how long I wanted to stay married, and I told him "A long time." So then he had to explain to me that you always, always have a plan for Valentine's Day, regardless. So we rounded up the graduate students who were still hanging out after class, and we figured out a way to get me some flowers and a card before I went back to the cabin to meet my wife (who, by the way, had prepared a beautiful candlelight dinner).

So the moral of the story is this: Valentine's is as much about friends as it is about a significant other. Without our friends, we wouldn't have the capacity to love our loved ones.

David Howell

The Daily Dean: Nutrition

Posted by David Howell Feb 13, 2014

The other day, Alex Folz (who will soon graduate) handed out nutritional smoothies to students in the CC Building. All together, his group handed out 100 samples and informational brochures--and received mostly positive responses. This initiative was the result of a project Alex and some of his classmates did in Dr. Anne Marie Nickel's chemistry class; part of the course curriculum focused on nutrition as it relates to chemistry. Earlier in the term, I was invited to the class and participated in a demonstration--a "shake off." Dr. Nickel and I both made nutritious shakes for the class and handed out samples, all the while discussing the direct connection between good nutrition and academic performance. I'm not sure what Dr. Nickel puts her her shake, but most mornings I start the day by blending some spinach, whey protein, half a banana, some frozen (non-tropical) fruit, and water. Mix it up in the blender for about a minute, and you have a delicious, portable breakfast.

It was great to see Alex and his classmates take this presentation and re-purpose it for the student body. Thanks to the office of Servant-Leadership for sponsoring the event.

Smoothie Sampling.JPG

David Howell

The Daily Dean: Spark

Posted by David Howell Feb 12, 2014

Last Friday, at the Dalton Institute Conference, I had the opportunity to hear John J. Ratey speak. Dr. Ratey is an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. His presentation focused on the content of a book he published this year--it's titled Spark: the Revolutionary new Science of Exercise and the Brain. The book talks about how aerobic exercise physically remodels our brains for peak performance. I'm all about high-order thought process, and I'm a big believer in exercise as a vehicle for getting the brain running at its best.

I have a copy of the book in my office (CC 385). Come on by if you want to borrow the book.

Here's a photo I took of Dr. Ratey's presentation.



After reflecting on the topic I last wrote about (silence and listening), it dawned on me that, as the Dean of Students, I don't have a designated time to meet with students. Yes, I meet with students all of the time--when they contact me and schedule a meeting. What I don't currently do is reach out to the student body for a scheduled time to talk about what's up.

So this is my idea: have an hour a week when I can meet with students--probably in the Campus Center, probably during a free hour, probably informal, yet with a great deal of intentionality. Do you think this is a good idea? Is it something that we should do? If you think so, then please reply to this post.

At the Dalton Institute conference, I sat in on a presentation by Dr. Gage Pain, the Vice President for Student Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin. Her presentation focused on silence--how we need to make space for silence in our daily academic lives. As an introvert, I love silence. I love to be alone in a room with a good window so I can look out of it as I simultaneously look inward to figure out what's going on in my head.

One of the main points in her talk is that silence allows for listening: if you don't bring silence into your job, then how can you allow those around you to speak? I've been serving as Dean of Students for about 6 months now, and I've found myself running around a lot. I haven't created enough space, or time, for silence and listening. So that's a goal I'm going to set: more time for silence. A scheduled time to listen--to students, faculty, and staff.

Do you resonate with this concept? If so, please reply to this post. Let me know what you think and if you also value silence.

Today, I present at the Dalton Institute. The title of the presentation is "Creating an Ethic of Care for the Developing World: an Ethnographic Study." You can view the PowerPoint presentation at Building Global Leaders_dalton institute_howell_31january2014.pdf.


The presentation focuses on an ethnographic research project I conducted with one of my research assistants, Jeff Trudell. We wanted to find out what the leadership experience is like when students engage in international service experiences. The content of this presentation overlaps well with this year's Dalton Institute conference, because the theme of this year's conference focuses on engendering a "culture of care." Servant-Leadership is a natural fit for the theme of the conference, especially in regard to the application of Servant-Leadership in our international initiatives.

For the next couple of days, I'll be attending (and presenting) at the John C. Dalton Institute on College Student Values. This year's theme is "Promoting an Ethic of Care: Student Well-Being as a Priority for Higher Education." This is the 3rd year in a row that I've attended this conference. Sure, it's nice to escape Milwaukee in February and head down to Tallahassee--but more importantly, it's good to participate in a conference, and a community, that advocates for and promotes student values.

Tonight's featured speaker is Richard P. Keeling, M.D. I'll write about his presentation in tomorrow's blog post. To learn more about the conference,  visit The Dalton Institute Experience / Jon C. Dalton Institute on College Student Values / FSU - Jon C. Dalton Institute on C….

Over the holiday break, my family went cross-country skiing north of Wausau. The cabin we stayed at was pretty far out there, so far out there that (much to my chagrin) we had no phone or internet access. But this "lack of contact" with the rest of the world ended up becoming an asset, simply because I (and my wife and kids) could not constantly check our iPhones for Facebook, texts and email updates.

The lodge that was adjacent to the cabin we rented had a sign above the kitchen: "Because Nice Matters." That sign resonated with my daughter, how it's not hard to find nice people when you're that far off the grid. We then had some great conversations about why it is that we lose the ability to be nice in our urban environments and demanding lifestyles.

So, this is the message I'd like to share with you all today: let's be nice. Let's be considerate. Let's help meet our own needs by helping meet the needs of others. Because nice matters.


Yesterday, I went cross-country skiing with my wife at Lapham Peak. The sunshine, snow, and cold air were refreshing--I'm ready to face a new week of work at MSOE.

I give a great deal of thought to work/life balance. There are 5 "morals" I live by, and one of them is "Play as hard as you work." I love skiing with my wife, Sue, because she skis hard. I simply enjoy trying to keep up with her. I like working hard as well, so getting outside for a couple of hours and taking in the scenery is great mental preparation for everything that has to be accomplished this week.