Eric Dieter is the executive director of the Longhorn Center for Academic Equity, a long-standing learning community within the DDCE that provides a wealth of resources to new and returning Longhorns—from academic coaching and tutoring to accessible study abroad programs to hands-on career preparations in several College-to-Career initiatives. Dieter also leads the McNair Scholars program, a federally funded Ph.D. pathway program that has helped many students accomplish their dreams of attending graduate school at top universities across the nation.
What are you looking forward to the most this fall when the students return to campus?
There are two years’ worth of students with whom I’ve had the pleasure to work, though we’ve never met in person. It’ll be nice to see faces—even masked—on campus that I’ve only seen on video. More broadly, this fall we’ll essentially welcome two cohorts of students who are stepping onto campus for the first time. That means double the excitement, and perhaps double the nerves. The back-to-school energy is always palpable, but this year I think it will be heightened, as will the need for faculty and staff to provide a helpful and hospitable campus.
Does the LCAE have any new offerings for students this semester?
The LCAE is always evolving to better serve students across campus. We’re looking to develop our Explore Health program more vigorously once we’re back on campus, expanding our College-to-Career opportunities. We’re recommitting to our Monarch Scholars program, under the guidance of the terrific Alicia Moreno, to offer academic support to undocumented students. Plus, this fall we’ll launch our First-Generation Equity Initiatives, led by the equally terrific Michelle Shanks, to provide a home-base for students who are the first in their families to go to college. We’re also working to offer in-house test prep courses to students progressing toward postgraduate degrees (i.e., GRE, LSAT, GMAT, MCAT). And, I’m maybe most excited by the LCAE’s push to extend its academic, personal and professional support services to graduate students.
Have there been any notable changes to the LCAE’s operations since the pandemic?
When the pandemic first hit, the LCAE spent a lot of time making sure students had everything they needed to shift to remote learning. It felt a little like academic triage. Once things settled, we got good at connecting with students via digital tools. The learning communities built during the pandemic feel as authentic, supportive and constructive as those built on campus. For some students (and staff), connecting remotely fit their learning and living styles; for others, it didn’t. As we return to campus, our goal is determining how to harness and blend the best of both in-person and online experiences, developing a sustainable and humane “hybrid,” to use a popular term of art. Working will work differently when we all return; moving forward, staff and students alike will engage in persistent, if partial, remote work. But rest assured, someone will always be available in the LCAE’s space—Student Services Building (SSB) 3.200—to assist students. We moved into this new space last year, so we haven’t had a chance officially to cut the ribbon. It’s a bigger, brighter, student-centric space. I encourage everyone to come check it out. The door’s always open…well, during business hours.
What message would you like to extend to our new and returning Longhorns?
Uncertainty about the pandemic will linger, so stay safe and take care. The push to be productive is insistent; make equal time to enjoy yourself. And if you find yourself needing a hand, come talk with me. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. You’re going to do great!
What is the best piece of advice you would like to give to our incoming students?
Maybe the most frequent piece of advice I give students is, do not suffer in silence. If you need help, get help. Recognizing that you need help and asking for help isn’t common sense. It isn’t something you just know how to do. It is an aptitude you have to learn. And, like most things, the more time you devote to it, the better you are at doing it. So, start practicing. Ask for help. And when opportunities present themselves, be helpful, which is another aptitude that you can never practice too much.