It might well be the best advice a college student will get, and the new dean of student affairs, Dr. Joe Oravecz is hoping every student at UNK will take heed.
“Become actively engaged with the campus community,” he said. “College gives you the chance in four or five years to do things you would not normally do. If you do not take advantage of that, you’re cheating yourself.”
With three college degrees and job experience at seven colleges and universities, Oravecz knows that there’s much more to college than the classroom. He brings a high-energy, active approach to UNK student affairs with knowledge and experience to boot.
A Norwalk, Conn., native, Oravecz ventured to Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania for his undergraduate degree as a first generation college student. While earning his bachelor’s degree in psychology, he was highly involved on campus as an RA, a tour guide, a fraternity member and a member of an organization equivalent to LPAC.
After he graduated from Gettysburg, Oravecz had his sights set on a career in law. “I moved up to Boston with some of my college buddies, and I wanted to become an entertainment lawyer. I got a job as a paralegal, and I hated it,” he said. Reconsidering his plan for law school, he picked up The Boston Globe and found his calling in the classifieds.
“I saw an ad for an admissions counselor at a small school, Mount Ida College, which is near Boston College,” Oravecz said. “My responsibilities there were to work with international students, and I loved it.”
Oravecz decided he wanted a career on a college campus and earned his master’s degree in higher education and student affairs from Ohio State University in Columbus. He then went for a Ph.D. in higher education administration from Florida State University in Tallahassee.
Before Oravecz attended Florida State, he worked at a university comparable to UNK. “I worked in a director of student activities leadership position at Salisbury University in Salisbury, Md. I worked there for quite a few years, and there are so many parallels between Salisbury and UNK.” Oravecz said the size, setting and student population at Salisbury are similar to UNK, and his experience there influenced his decision to accept a position here. “I really truly enjoyed and loved that sort of college environment,” he said.
Oravecz has also worked in student affairs positions at Syracuse University, Central Michigan University, the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut and most recently Bowling Green State University.
He began serving as the dean of student affairs at UNK on Aug. 1, replacing the interim dean of student affairs, Dr. Gail Zeller. Oravecz is responsible for overseeing the division of student affairs including Admissions, Financial Aid, Counseling and Health Care, Academic and Career Services, Academic Success, Multicultural Affairs, Nebraskan Student Union and Residential and Greek Life.
Oravecz said he enjoys the day-to-day interaction with students and seeing them transition from freshmen to college graduates. “I absolutely love talking with students about their hopes and dreams and trying to create opportunities for them to realize those.”
He encourages all students to take advantage of the many opportunities at UNK, whether it’s joining an organization, attending one of the numerous events on campus or getting to know professors. “We don’t just want you to receive a college education, we want you to receive a college experience,” he said.