Dr. Mari Ross Excited About Start at her ‘Dream Job’
By: Wyatt Crosher, Communications Coordinator for Student Affairs
When Dr. Mari Ross first saw UNC Charlotte's campus more than 20 years ago, she knew it was somewhere she wanted to end up as she thought of her future career. It isn’t something she can explain – Ross compared it to picking a favorite sports team, “you don’t know how it happened, you just know it did.” Regardless, when she lived in the area from 1997-2000, she felt in her heart that Charlotte, with its electric atmosphere and growing campus, was her dream school. And that dream has come to fruition.
Now, as associate vice chancellor (AVC) for Health and Wellbeing for Student Affairs, Ross is proud to finally call Niner Nation home. And not only has she secured her dream job, she's the first person in this position for the University, a rare feat for anyone to accomplish.
However, it is less rare for Ross. Before starting at Charlotte in August, Ross spent time at Tennessee State University. There she started as the Director of the university’s Counseling Center before becoming its first AVC of Health and Wellbeing. After that, Ross moved to North Carolina Central, where she once again became the inaugural AVC of Health and Wellbeing.
Now, she has taken up the mantle at Charlotte. And while it may be her third time in the same position based on its name, Ross said that each University has felt unique along the way.
“I've had the opportunity to be the inaugural AVC at three institutions, all very different, and in some ways similar, too,” Ross said. "Tennessee State was 'Let's figure it out.' It was a very new concept, and even trying to figure out what it looked like was very interesting. At Central, we had an idea. There was a vision and an idea of what that was going to look like, and the infrastructure was already there, so it was very much just pulling the pieces together and developing what that was going to look like for the campus.
"Here at Charlotte, it's similar to Central. The infrastructure is there, the structure is set, I have directors who bought into an integrative model and now it really is just about understanding the mission.”
Ross’ first months at Charlotte have gone according to plan. She said the campus has been as energetic as she had hoped, and that the Charlotte community has been very welcoming for her thus far.
That welcoming atmosphere is something that Ross hopes to reciprocate back to the Charlotte students and community.
"My favorite part of the job is getting to know people, and, more importantly, getting to know students. They're the lifeblood for me,” Ross said. "I truly have an open-door and open-ear policy. I know some people just say that, but I really want campus partners and students to know that they can come, talk and share. Let's synergize together to get the wellbeing of our students, faculty and staff where it needs to be.”
Ross may be at the campus she’s aimed for, but she still has ideas for ways to make Charlotte a better place. To start, she is excited to bring the campus closer together in a way that allows everyone at the University to make a positive impact.
“I really look forward to creating a campus culture of care. A University-wide wellbeing way of looking at life that encompasses the faculty, staff and students in a wellbeing model so that everyone is looking outward and is responsible for the wellbeing of one another,” Ross said. “It's a campus that really cares, and we have to demonstrate that. We know we care, we can feel it and now the implementation and demonstration is what makes me excited.
That culture of care is clear when looking around Ross’ office inside the Student Health Center. Her walls and desk remain full of decorations from when she was welcomed to Charlotte by her colleagues back in August. More than five months into working at the University, Ross’ dream is still alive and well.
"It has been amazing here. I mean look at my office,” Ross said. “This is my dream job, and it hasn't become a nightmare. It's still a dream, and everyone has been very warm and welcoming and supportive. It's been good.”