Unimportant Questions with Important People: Mark Allen, Dean of Students

Kirstin Cook, Editor-in-Chief

What is your role on campus?

As dean of students, I have responsibility for residence life, health and wellness – which includes campus counseling- and student development. Additionally I advise student government and I also facilitate the judicial council on campus. And then I help coordinate large scale projects like commencement and new student orientation and those sorts of activities.

I teach two first-year foundation courses, one in leadership studies, the other in American culture and values, which is a class that includes all of our first year international students as well as about domestic students. I also teach topics classes in sociology in the spring, so that’s a part of my life outside of student affairs where I get to see students at a totally different level , as a student-teacher relationship.

What is the best part about your role?

Clearly, working with students, and I don’t mean to sound cliché, as dean of students. I stay young just by working in my job. I’m very fortunate that I meet 500-600 new people a year and I get to watch them as first year students that grow and fulfill their hopes and dreams and graduate. All sorts of folks who have graduated come back, and talk to me. For me to feel that I’ve had some small part of their success is extremely gratifying.

Is there something people would be surprised to know about you?

I have two children who are both very musically oriented. My son is a musician in Philadephia and teaches at the University of the Arts but also plays in several bands, does studio work and goes between New York and Philadephia as a professional musician. And my daughter is in her first year of college to be an opera singer. So both are very musically inclined, and I credit that to having brought them up in a house of listening to all different types of music.

The other quirky little thing is that I originally went to school to be a weatherman. I started as a meteorology major, but changed as time went on.

What is your favorite pastime?

I play racquetball. And then a lot of it is traveling to Philadelphia, New York, Washington to either see plays, musical performances or something culturally oriented.

Did you ever consider becoming an artist, or a musician like your children?

 I have very little talent. Frankly I played the accordion for about two weeks. It’s remarkable that my son is a master of woodwind instruments and my daughter has a beautiful soprano voice, but I have none of those talents.

What is in your refrigerator right now?

I think whatever I can put ketchup on. If people eat lunch with me they will have seen ketchup go on just about everything. I was in a Parisian restaurant and the waiter brought me a plate, and I made the mistake of asking for a little ketchup for it, and that was particularly offensive to him.  I consider it a food group.

Are there any television shows that you are currently watching?

For the most part it would be either watching the occasional football game and a little bit of the History Channel. I enjoy history, and the only show I would watch fairly faithfully is “The Office.” I find it very funny, even as they change people out of it, it still continues to be fresh, that would be my favorite.

If you were an animal, what type of animal would you be?

It would probably be from the cat family I would think, because I picture a cat or a tiger or a lion as an animal that doesn’t relax often, and given the nature of my work and even in home life I am continually busy with some things.

If you were to win a million dollars, what is the first thing you would do with it?

I would like to be totally philanthropic and give it to a variety of causes, but there’s a piece of me that would want to make sure the mortgage and kid’s loans and all of that were covered, but I certainly would want to put a large portion to worthy causes. I have been out in the community a couple of times with student groups, clearing basements, and just seeing the devastation  —  a large portion of that million dollars, would go immediately to those that are suffering around us.

What are you looking forward to in the future at Wilkes?

It’s always exciting to see new growth, new building going on campus … and taking a look at the new science building, that’s exciting, I think that kind of a project breeds enthusiasm among the community, whether you’re a biology major or an English major, you see that growth and you feel like you’re part of something exciting.