Commitment to Student Success: Director of Student Services Maria del Pilar Murguia
Director of Student Services Maria del Pilar Murguia was born in Bolivia and lived in Colombia before moving to Italy. She graduated from JCU in 2003 with a B.A. in Business Administration and two minors in Economics and Computer Science. In 2019, she obtained a MicroMaster in Global Business Leadership and Management from Arizona State University. Maria del Pilar is also a certified Cost Engineering Practitioner and Student Leadership Challenge facilitator.
You are a JCU alumna and the Director of Student Services. What brought you to JCU, first as a student and then as a staff member?
My older sister attended JCU (Class of 1997), and I would frequently visit her here. After getting to know its close-knit, international environment, I decided to apply to JCU. Since then, I have been an active member of our community. As an undergraduate, I was very involved in student clubs, and along with my friends, founded the Let’s Rome Association, a student service association focused on meeting the travel needs of students in a safe and budget-friendly way. Our association’s business plan was awarded the Best Business Plan of the BIC Competition (Business Incubator Centre Lazio). After I graduated, I was offered a job as Student Assistant in the Student Services Office. I was very intrigued by this career opportunity, as I was able to work with young people and help them develop their visions and ideas. Over the course of fifteen years, my role has changed from Assistant to Coordinator to Manager to my current position as Director.
What does your job as Director of Student Services entail?
My role at JCU is to create opportunities and experiences aimed at establishing and maintaining an environment that supports learning, encourages a strong sense of community, and promotes student development through active engagement in university life. I directly supervise the areas of Athletics, Performing Arts, Student Activities and Trips, Student Events, and Student Leadership Programs. Under my leadership, new programs and divisional areas have been created in order to respond to students’ needs. JCU’s clubs and organizations have grown from 5 to 28; new programs have been established, such as Orientation Leadership and Orientation Student Assistant Programs. New positions and offices have been created, such as Community Service, Immigration Services, Student Clubs, Health, Student Activities, and Athletics. All this has been possible thanks to the great team of professionals I have worked with over the years. JCU has brought me immense personal growth, and I am honored to have contributed to the transformation of the Student Life Division.
What are the most rewarding and challenging aspects of being Director of Student Services?
I feel responsible for the new programs we offer to our students. Therefore, it is paramount that I keep asking the same questions for every new program, project, and event: what do we want our students to learn? How can this learning be facilitated? How can we track and document their progress? Helping students overcome the challenges they face is a rewarding experience. By helping students throughout their journey, I also learn from them, and this process helps in designing future programs.
What services and opportunities are JCU students provided with? How do extracurricular activities benefit students?
At JCU, students can take advantage of a large variety of extracurricular programs and activities that help them apply academic skills to a real-world context. Examples range from taking a leadership role in a student club, to competing in a sports team, or being part of the TEdxStudent Group that allows students to learn new skills, connect with community members, and learn from fellow students.
Where do you see JCU in 10 years?
John Cabot University is a unique university because it’s American yet international, a place where different cultures come together and learn from each other. I believe that JCU will continue to grow and become one of the leading American universities abroad thanks to its first-rate academics and student life programs.