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Spotlight: Enku Gelaye

Enku Gelaye
UMASS Dean of Students and Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs and Campus Life

From the moment she came onto campus Enku Gelaye, the newest Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs and Dean of Students, has hit the ground running in order to “learn UMass”.

She has done so by visiting Residential Halls, the Center for Multicultural Advancement and Student Success, Student Legal Services, the Admissions Office, the Student Government Association and several other organizations. She has also attended events such as the Sammies Awards and a recent Phallacies performance.

Gelaye describes herself as, “the type of person that needs to be in it from the ground up so that I can learn the organization so that's what I'm doing... I can have lofty plans but if I don't understand what's happening ... I don't think it would be wise to work on anything.”

To achieve this she plans on spending the summer getting to know people, and how things work at the university followed by doing the everyday work to meet the needs of the students and the university overall. Also, with her student-centered philosophy Gelaye is also learning the multiple identities that students possess as well as how to serve them.

She says, “I like to have the student voice in almost anything I do.”

So far Gelaye has a really good impression of UMass students and describes them as being very engaged in the UMass community and people that are concerned about larger issues. She is also very impressed with her new colleagues and their work at the university.

She says, “[they] really care about this institution and they do care about the students although students may not perceive it in that way.”

It may seem odd that she is involved in higher education since she has a B.A. in Journalism and a law degree but Gelaye explains that she saw her degrees as a way of acquiring skills rather than a strict career path.

“I'm not one of those that went to majors thinking this is what I'm gonna do the rest of my life.” Gelaye said. “I got my degrees for the skill sets and those skill sets keep me afloat professionally.”

She has observed that students today are more intent on having the right major for the right career but Gelaye urges students to stray from that notion.

“I encourage students to focus on skill sets versus labels and thinking that you're going to be doing one thing for the rest of your life” she says.

Although she never saw herself as a journalist she is still fascinated by the industry and calls herself a “news junkie”. She reads multiple news sources daily such as the Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Ed, the New York Times, the Daily Beast and the Huffington Post. She also indulges in celebrity gossip and fashion blogs in order to keep in touch with the trends of youth since getting to know them is practically her job.

Gelaye also plans on getting involved with other organizations in the area such as her sorority of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated. She has been apart of this sorority since 1992 when she joined the Zeta Delta chapter during her undergraduate career at the University of Tennessee.

By Netha Gill, Journalism 2011
Editor of News and Events, CMASS website