Q & A: Ric McClendon
Ric S. McClendon, EdD, joined SBU in July 2021 as assistant vice president and dean of students. Here he shares with us his excitement for his mission.
What’s your role at SBU?
I’m responsible for creating initiatives to help all undergraduate and graduate students to be successful, personally and academically. I want to discover how I can best support them during their journey and to have an opportunity to enhance their experience through co-curricular engagement, leadership and well-being activities.
What brought you to SBU?
One thing stuck out as a common theme during my on-campus interview with a diverse group of students and staff: wanting to foster a sense of belonging and pride at Stony Brook. Everyone who talked about that did so with high energy and a creative spirit. I felt like I was being invited to share in the excitement, and I knew I wanted to be part of it.
How do you plan to keep building Seawolves’ pride?
The path starts with ideas from the students. They have to define what would make them proud to be a Seawolf. We have students participating in major research projects and community-wide initiatives that will bring about positive change we all get to celebrate.
We have first-generation and nontraditional students who are putting themselves through college because they want to change their family legacy, make a better life for themselves and build generational wealth.
I was a first-generation college student myself and navigating college without a roadmap can feel intimidating. I know how important feeling connected to peers and faculty can be to your sense of belonging during your time at college. I did not know what I wanted to do for a career, but my faculty encouraged and inspired me to find my passion, which led me toward hospitality and higher education. Having strong relationships through my fraternity opened opportunities for me to take on leadership roles in student government and other organizations, participate in community service and philanthropic causes and support to celebrate coming out.
To ensure the success of all students, we must make sure every interaction is done with student care and support in mind. We want students to look back on their journey and recognize all they’ve accomplished with the support provided. My plan is to stay connected to our student leaders and representatives and learn about their experiences and what we can do to be supportive.
What are your initial goals as you get to know campus?
First and foremost is to introduce myself to as many Seawolves as possible and build one-on-one connections. It’s important to me to always be available to students to not only hear their stories, but also to be best positioned to celebrate and support them whenever I can. Student Life’s newest program, “Kick it With Dean Ric,” gives me a chance to visit with students in some of their favorite places and to connect with them directly. My hope is students will seek me out after this introductory meet and greet. The ultimate goal is to create a high-energy campus community with a strong student spirit and a sense of belonging.
We know that being engaged on a college campus can look different to each Seawolf, but the hope is that by offering a variety of experiences we will be able to engage the vast majority of students on campus. A student’s sense of belonging at their university is a critical factor in their success, and I hope that through our programming and engagement initiatives we are able to engage all students and they will leave here with a holistic education and pride in being a lifelong Seawolf.