Dr. Bill McDonald, Dean of Students at the University of Georgia, poses for a portrait in his office in the Tate Student Center on Friday, Jan. 17, 2019. (Photo/Tony Walsh)

In Bill McDonald’s office, there is a painting of Lewis and Clark at the Great Falls, one of the most challenging expeditions on their journey. They encountered many obstacles like buffalo, rattlesnakes, and dangerous hail storms every day.

Maybe we don’t encounter these things as students in Athens, but the painting serves a specific purpose in McDonald’s office.

“I have that painting for two reasons: always remember to tackle things one step at a time and to not take yourself too seriously,” McDonald said.

Students, new and old, have more than likely seen this man walking through the halls of Tate Student Center. McDonald works with undergraduate students to help them figure out their educational and career goals.

“My focus and joy is helping students navigate this large, complex university,” he said.

Dean of Students McDonald oversees five departments, including the Student Veterans Resource Center and Tate Student Center.

“I see my job as giving these departments the support for them to accomplish the goals that they’re setting because each director is an expert in their own area,” McDonald said.

“What is my focus and joy is helping students navigate this large, complex university." 

— Bill McDonald, Dean of Students

Across 37 years and many jobs in the southeast, McDonald said his allegiance still lies with UGA, where he has served as dean of students since 2011. 

“People ask him who he’s cheering for [when UGA plays the schools he worked for], and he always says ‘I cheer for my paycheck,’” his administrative specialist Dawn Palmer said.

He is also heavily involved in the orientation program for rising first-year students. Emily Austin, a third year, was an orientation leader and worked closely with McDonald.

“Dr. Bill is very relational. He makes everyone that comes to UGA feel super special and invited, and you can just tell that he has a huge heart in what he does daily for students,” Austin said

“[Another orientation leader and I] mentioned that we wanted coffee, and Dr. Bill pulls out a $20, and of course we declined it, but he stuck it in my rain jacket hood,” Austin said, “He took us to Starbucks and bought us coffee, and bought the family behind us coffee. That story in itself just shows his character.”

Palmer primarily works on McDonald’s calendar and supervises the student staff in the office.

“He has high expectations, but fully trusts the staff. Even though he is very busy, he still cares about each of us personally,” Palmer said. “He addresses everyone in his office as his colleagues rather than his staff.”

The purpose of UGA Student Affairs is to provide information or point people to another office to help them. Whether a student can’t figure out who to call or needs direction for their education, the ‘living room of Tate’ will assist.

“He is the embodiment of this office’s mission, which is to make Georgia feel small,” Palmer said.

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