When David Strauss came to Michigan 20 years to take on the dean of students role at Wayne State University, he thought he was just getting a job — but what he found was so much more.
“It’s home — Wayne State is home,” Strauss said. “I’m not sure if I expected to stay 20 years, but I’m glad, and I feel privileged to be here 20 years later. I look back and it's been exciting. Every day is exciting, every day is new.”
Strauss’ longevity is in large part due to the long list of strengths he brings to his position — the greatest of which might be his ability to create and build relationships with students.
He’s always interacting with students and makes himself available to help them in any way he can. He said his mentors were always there for students, so he’s always wanted to make sure he was too.
“The students are why we're here, and I want them to be successful,” Strauss said. “I want to help them, and I want to celebrate their accomplishments. I want to help them when they have challenges. I want them to enjoy their Wayne State experience.
“College is special, and our students don't take college for granted like some other students do. My feeling is, we should drop everything for students. That's why we're here. I really admire the dedication of our students and the tenacity of our students.”
Assistant Director of Student Involvement Brandon Shamoun credits Strauss for being his mentor while he was a student at Wayne State and is a big reason why he went into higher education as a career.
“He’s a hard worker,” Shamoun said. “He’s very student-centered, and the students on campus know that. Sometimes when you are on a large campus like Wayne State, you might not see a dean right in with the students. But he’s not hesitant to give out his cell number or email and be available outside of regular work hours. That’s just his work ethic — he puts students first. I noticed that as a student and I still do 10 years later.”
Strauss has accomplished a lot during his 20-year tenure, but he’s always quick to point out that it was a team effort by his office and collaborations with other units throughout the university.
Some of Strauss’ achievements include increasing student organizations from around 150 when he started to more than 500, the creation of student care reports, establishing traditions — the late-night breakfast and FestiFall being two of Strauss’ favorites — and an increase in student activities like Alternative Spring Break Detroit and Thursdays in the D.
“I'm very proud of the increase in student organizations and I think that's because we've made it very open and easy to form a student organization,” Strauss said. "Things like involvement, community and being connected are important. That's what leads to students having a great college experience. I'm very proud of that.
“I'm very proud of the accomplishments we've had with our student basic needs initiatives, so that we can provide them food, clothing and hygiene products. I think we've done a nice job of caring about our students and providing them these resources. You know, 20 years ago, we didn't talk about food pantries or wardrobes for students. We didn't have basic needs initiatives for students, and now we do, so I feel that this university has been a leader in making student needs come first.”
Strauss is also incredibly proud of the increase in school spirit. He enjoys wearing his Wayne State gear when he’s not working and bumping into Wayne State students and alumni.
He even keeps some extra Warrior swag in his car to give out to people.
"You see the Warrior pride, and we didn’t always see that 20 years ago,” Strauss said. “I feel like we had a part in making that happen, along with Alumni Affairs, Athletics, Residence Life and Marketing and Communications.
“You know, 20 years ago, Wayne State wasn't the first choice or the second choice of a lot of high school kids. Now it is. And people will say ‘well, that has to do with the emergence of the city.’ But the emergence of the city can also be credited in part to Wayne State. It's a destination for students, and it wasn't that way 20 years ago.”
Strauss plans on staying at Wayne State for the foreseeable future and believes the university will continue to grow and thrive.
“It's been my honor to work here, and I hope I have many more years here,” Strauss said.