An Exit Interview With Dr. Joe Oravecz

Dr. Joseph Oravecz (he/him)—or Joe O to many students— is retiring from his position as Vice President of the Division for Student Life at the end of the Fall semester. A familiar face to almost any involved student, Dr. Oravecz heads the department that includes the CARE Team, the Center for Student Engagement, and the Wellness Center, among others; more broadly, he is responsible for representing student interests on campus. Dr. Oravecz caught up with The Comment to reflect on his time at BSU and the lessons he takes with him as he moves forward. 

Since he assumed the position in 2018, Oravecz has seen the student body evolve, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. He explained that the division was especially concerned with addressing isolation and helping students develop the life skills they might have missed, especially by cultivating a sense of “holistic health” (physical health, mental health, spiritual health, and career health). These are “leadership skills,” said Oravecz, and “When I’m out and about, that was really important to me is the presence of students, is to be able to know through conversations with you all if we are hitting the mark, are we are we doing what we need to do, and you can only do that by having engaged conversations.” 

Rather than getting “back to normal” after the pandemic, Oravecz wants BSU to focus on the “next normal.” “We have an incredible opportunity of creating traditions,” he said, explaining how the shutdown created a blank slate. “You don’t have someone that will say, ‘It won’t work. You know, we tried before and it wouldn’t happen and it wasn’t successful,” because there’s two to three years of we couldn’t do it. And so, this is an exciting time to be able to do that. The team within the division has done an outstanding job, just allowing that creativity and just trying something and to be able to say ‘hey, is that going to work or not?’” 

For Dr. Oravecz, the relationship between him and the campus community goes both ways. “I always want to make sure that I’m learning from students and through their lens through ways in which that I can grow as an individual.” Especially when it comes to the division’s wellness initiative, he recognized the importance of “walking the talk” and modeling a sense of balance for students. He added, “My hope is that students can see me as an approachable individual that, if there’s anything that they have questions about or opportunities, or hey, even asking, ‘why are we doing certain things?’ that they feel safe in doing that.” 

Though Dr. Oravecz is leaving to work on new projects, he said that he will always be a Bridgewater bear. He has one last easter egg for BSU; he says that the bronze bear statue outside of the Rondileau Student Union is hollow so that it can be lit up from the inside. Though it has not been done yet, Dr. Oravecz hopes it will be done for a future celebration or remembrance, reminding students to “allow your inner light as a bear to glow outside.” 

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