D'Andre Braddix

D’Andre Braddix was promoted to dean of students in April after 14 years working in the Division of Student Affairs at his alma mater. (Photo by August Jennewein)

D’Andre Braddix knew by the time he was completing his master’s degree from the College of Education at the University of Missouri–St. Louis that he was a “long-hauler.”

“I love UMSL, and I don’t see myself ever leaving the university,” said Braddix, who earned his master’s in 2008, a year after finishing his bachelor’s in criminology and criminal justice.

He’s remained at UMSL ever since, starting as a program/project support coordinator in the Division of Student Affairs and steadily advancing, taking on more responsibility and exerting more leadership over the past 14 years as assistant to the vice provost, assistant dean of students and associate vice provost.

In April, Braddix – who also holds an EdD – was promoted to dean of students. He has direction and oversight of students support services, including Health, Counseling and Disability Access Services; Student Conduct and Academic Integrity; Career Services; Student Advocacy and CARE; and UMSL Veterans Education and Transition Services. He also advises the UMSL Chapter of the Associated Students of the University of Missouri and serves as UMSL’s Deputy Title IX Coordinator.

Braddix volunteers his time as vice chair on the Board of Directors for Citizens for Modern Transit and is also a member of the Transit Advisory Working Group, established by regional elected leaders to improve safety and restore public confidence in the MetroLink system.

Braddix spoke to UMSL Daily about his time at UMSL and his new position as dean of students.

What is your role as dean of students?

As dean of students, it’s my responsibility to ensure our students have the support they need to achieve their personal and educational goals. Since the needs and interests of our students constantly shift, my team and I regularly evaluate our resources and services to ensure we’re doing our best to support students.

Additionally, I am the chief student advocate, so I serve as a liaison between students, faculty/staff and administration. Whether student concerns arise inside the classroom or off-campus, I’m always available as a resource to students when they encounter barriers that could negatively impact their success as a student.

Why were you drawn to this kind of work?

I’m naturally an empathetic person who finds great value in helping others – it feeds my soul. As dean of students, my job is all about helping others. Whether it’s dealing with a student crisis in the middle of the night, or working with a faculty member to address a student issue, I never take for granted the role that I play in helping others navigate challenges.

I am also drawn to the ability to help students grow and develop. The unfortunate reality of my position is that there will always be students who make bad choices. However, I am often able to employ a restorative justice approach which allows students to repair the harm caused by their behavior. By doing so, I am able to help the student better understand the impact of their actions, while at the same time helping them and others understand that one bad decision should not define a person.

Why have you liked the university so much?

First and foremost, our students. Our students are diverse. Our students have grit. Our students know hard work. Our students value their education. And our students understand the importance of community service and civic engagement.

I also really like our commitment to transforming lives. At UMSL, we take great pride in supporting and graduating some of the most vulnerable student populations, such as students of color, first generation students, low-income students, LGBTQ+ students, student veterans, international students, student parents and students with disabilities. Unlike other institutions, UMSL isn’t marred with bureaucracy, so there is always the space to create new programs and services to best meet the needs of our students. I love our mission and I love the students that we serve.

What brought you here as a student?

I decided on UMSL during my junior year of high school. I had always thought I wanted to work in law enforcement, so it wasn’t a question that UMSL would be the best choice for me given that our criminology and criminal justice program is among the best in the nation.

Being a first-generation college student, who graduated from a small private Christian school with only five other students, I had no idea what to expect my first day at UMSL. My first class was Intro to Criminology and it was held in a large lecture hall, which was extremely intimidating. My professor was the late Dr. Bob Bursik, and he looked nothing like the professors I saw on television. He had a long beard, was wearing a wrinkled t-shirt with jeans and baseball cap, so I wasn’t sure what to think. That is until he started teaching. I then learned a valuable lesson to never judge a book by its cover because this man was an expert in his field and internationally renowned. Bob and I shared a big laugh together when I later told him that I initially thought he was the janitor.

What is the most rewarding part about your job? And what’s most stressful?

Unfortunately, there are times when barriers just stack up, one after another, for a student and they begin to doubt whether finishing their degree is the right decision. When I’m able to speak with that student, identify the barriers they’re facing and then problem-solve with them so that they can continue working towards their degree, that’s what I find the most rewarding.  At the end of the day, I’m ultimately a resource for our students, faculty and staff so I find value in being of service.

The most stressful aspect of my job is navigating work/life balance. As dean of students, you never clock out. When issues arise in the late evening or on the weekends, I need to be available to provide support and guidance to members of our campus community. This can feel like a heavy responsibility at times, so practicing self-care is essential in my role.

Is it a challenge to show empathy and compassion when a student has committed a serious infraction?

I’m empathic and compassionate with every student, even those who have made bad decisions. I always try to put myself in their shoes in order to better understand what factors may have led to their behavior. As humans we are all fallible and there are times we need the help of others to critically reflect on our actions, including the impact that was caused, whether intentional or not.

I try not to define a person by an experience, or one bad mistake, but rather how they recover from it. The college experience is about growth, not just intellectual, but also moral and ethical. My goal with every student I encounter for student conduct concerns is to create a safe space for a teachable moment. I never require students to apologize for their actions, but instead my goal is to be developmental and restorative in my approach so that students can form genuine contrition as they process their actions. It’s seeing this type of growth in students that gives me a sense of purpose.

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Steve Walentik

Steve Walentik

Eye on UMSL: Tending the gardens
Eye on UMSL: Tending the gardens

Biology student James Ott and Sustainable Energy & Environmental Coordinator Katy Mike Smaistrla pull weeds last week in the native gardens north of the Recreation Wellness Center.

Eye on UMSL: Tending the gardens

Biology student James Ott and Sustainable Energy & Environmental Coordinator Katy Mike Smaistrla pull weeds last week in the native gardens north of the Recreation Wellness Center.

Eye on UMSL: Tending the gardens

Biology student James Ott and Sustainable Energy & Environmental Coordinator Katy Mike Smaistrla pull weeds last week in the native gardens north of the Recreation Wellness Center.