Conversations with Leaders: Mushtaq Choudhary
As Director of Auxiliary Services and University Housing, he says a sense of belonging is the key to student success, and since 2015, Choudhary has put in place programs at the residence hall, GSU Bookstore and the GSU Café (specifically the One Card and meal plans) to cultivate that feeling.
“I’m always considering where students are on campus—the residence hall environment and cafeteria are the main areas outside the classroom. So, I’m always thinking of what can we do to support students and make the environment conducive to their educational pursuits so they can be successful and eventually graduate,” he said.
He’s been creating a home away from home for students for nearly 17 years.
Prior to arriving at Governors State, Choudhary was the Director of Residence Life at a university where he was required to live on campus. Initially, campus life was an exciting experience, but two children later, the lifestyle was no longer suitable.
He moved to GSU a year after its first freshmen arrived on campus. Prairie Place had been open one year, and Choudhary kept the momentum going.
He knew that building relationships with students and helping them find creative solutions to their challenges was the critical to success at GSU.
“I can write a book about each student because once you delve into who the student really is and start digging into that student’s life you learn so much about them and what they need,” he said.
The needs are as diverse as the residents—a point of pride for Choudhary whose experience had never included a Minority Serving Institution or an emerging Hispanic Serving Institution.
Governors State is both, and Choudhary says he is delighted to serve. “It is a joy to see such a diverse building, as well as being able to cater to all types of students and be so engaged in students’ success,” reflects Choudhary.
One program Choudhary helps manage at GSU is a learning environment in Prairie Place, a coordinated effort between Choudhary and the Faculty-in-Residence, Professors Tim Harrington and Crystal Harris. Part of the program is Residential Education, a six-week peer led course run by Resident Assistants (RAs) to help students learn the ins and outs of living in the residence hall.
The RAs also go through a three- to four-week training session to prepare them to mentor and support students so that everyone feels comfortable. Since RAs are available to the students 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Choudhary said, this close-at-hand support is the best case scenario for students.
“National studies show that students who live on campus tend to have a better GPA and may even graduate sooner than commuter students because they have all the resources immediately available to them,” he clarified.
Regardless of whether students live on campus or commute, the cafeteria is likely a big part of their GSU experience, and it’s Choudhary goal to make sure it’s a good one.
He’s part of a team leading a major renovation of the GSU Café and dining center, which has not been updated in 50 years since its original installation in the early 1970s.
The modernization of the 17,500-square-foot area comprising of the cafeteria, dining area is expected to be complete by fall 2020. A temporary cafeteria is being set up in the E-Lounge during the long-awaited construction.
Another place students will benefit from Choudhary’s efforts is at the GSU bookstore, where he is the driver behind affordable book options for students. Changes include sourcing used and rental books and a price match program in which students have reported saving over $500 throughout the course of their education.
To Choudhary, the students’ successful matriculation through the university is worth all his work from one end of campus to the other, from managing residence life to meal plans to book sales.
Choudhary says he is honored by be part of the support system that enables students to focus on their studies—and to succeed.
“You watch a student first semester of freshman year, then sophomore and junior and finally in their senior year they have a whole new maturity,” he said. “The excitement they feel when they are seconds from getting their diploma has been my motivation.”