Beyond the Staff: John Michalenko


Beck Necciai

John Michalenko in his office.

Rebecca Necciai, Reporter

John Michalenko will be retiring as the vice president of student life and Dean of Students in December, but during his time here, he has seen the university transform.

“There has been so much [growth] in the past 25 years, we used to be a small institution, but now we are a vibrant and proud university,” said Michalenko.

The campus grew; new programs and new buildings emerged, but what Michalenko was really proud of is the many accomplishments students made, one of which was the creation of the counseling center.

“We needed a mental health perspective on campus when I first came here, we had no counseling, no one to speak to, and I really believe that growing and focusing on the student’s well-being is something I am so proud of,” said Michalenko.

He also explained how amazed he was watching RMU club sports and greek life’s philanthropy grow. He also expressed his gratitude toward the staff and the Center for Student Success for keeping their main focus on the students.

One of his favorite things that happened at RMU was when it became a university because it was a big deal to be approved by the state.

“There was something really amazing about how strong the students’ work ethic was here,” said Michalenko. “I feel as though there is something about our population that has this drive and commitment to graduate.”

Some of Michalenko’s biggest inspirations are his wife, parents, and children. Outside of family, he shows his gratitude towards Dr. Nicholson, the 6th president of Robert Morris. He came to the university at a perfect time and was an incredible visionary as he brought RMU to university status, said Michalenko.

Michalenko explains his job as a “complex position.”

“It runs the gamut, really a typical day is that you just never know,” said Michalenko. “When it comes down to it, a typical day is ensuring that students are getting the most engaging experiences as they can and helping them to be successful.”

Working with many different departments at RMU, Michalenko oversees the Office of Residence Life, club and intramural sports, Center for Student Success, student activities, greek life, band, theatre and much more.

Michalenko started studying corporate in Massachusetts and did not fully enjoy the corporate world, which lead him to George Mason University where he studied Counseling and Personal Development in Higher Education.

After completing his education in Massachusetts, he moved to Pennsylvania with his wife and started working with Engineering and Computer Science students in the Career Center at PennWest. After 10 years, he saw a position here at RMU to help develop and grow a career center, and 2 years later, he was offered a position as Dean of Students where he integrated a career development model into student life.

“I didn’t expect to become Vice President at all,” said Michalenko. “When I was offered it, it was the summer after my second year and I was at Idlewild with my two young children and wife when I got the phone call where the university offered me the position.”

Michalenko’s parting advice to students that are looking into RMU is that if the students truly invest in going to RMU and take advantage of every opportunity they will be successful because it’s what you make of the experience.

Upon departure, John Michalenko will still have involvement with RMU’s men’s and women’s bowling teams.