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Meet Shemar James: STARS Peer Mentor and Student Assistant in the Dean of Students Office

Meet Shemar James, a senior business management major with an entrepreneurship concentration and Spanish minor.  Beyond his major and minor, Shemar has been engaged at DePaul in a number of different ways during his time here. Read on to learn more about this extraordinary student.

Q: Why did you choose to attend DePaul?
A: I was sure I would attend Columbia College; I had bought the gear and everything. Then, I came to DePaul and ran into a girl who had transferred from Columbia to DePaul. She told me about the unique, simultaneously suburban and city feel DePaul had, as well as a strong sense of community.  I felt that it was a moment of destiny running into this girl, so I went with DePaul.

Q: How have you been involved on campus?
A: I am a STARS Peer Mentor, so I work with first-year, first-generation students, students of color and low-income students to make sure they are academically, socially and financially successful their first year and beyond. I am also a Leadership Scholar. Leadership Scholars conduct community service and discuss important issues, as well as matters of social justice. 

I was a member of the Gospel Choir for about two years, and I have also worked as a Sankofa coordinator. Sankofa is a black student organization that combines black celebration and spirituality, while discussing issues that impact the black community and society in general. I currently work as a student office assistant in the Dean of Students Office, too, and have been working here for about two and a half years.

Q: What does the Dean of Students Office do, and what do you do as an office assistant?
A: The Dean of Students Office manages and investigates student conduct cases, and makes sure students feel safe on campus. As an office assistant, I execute processes the Dean of Students Office handles, like absence notifications, where the office reaches out to a student’s professors notifying them of the student’s absence due to an emergency, or administrative withdrawals, a late withdrawal from classes. When students have a medical or personal emergency and contact us, I direct them to resources either we or the university can provide. We can request flexibility from the professor if a student is falling behind, find emergency housing or provide information on local food pantries. We do a lot to advocate for students when they need assistance.

Q: Has your work as an office assistant related to your studies?
A: I have learned communication skills, self-discipline and how to deal with time-sensitive, confidential information issues in a fast-paced, unpredictable environment: all important things to know as a business major. I’m responsible for completing tasks with tight deadlines, handling confidential paperwork and budgeting and financial reconciliation. Because there are so many incidents happening all the time, I’ve learned how important it is to keep tight and strong communication within the office and its partners and students.

Q: What has been your favorite part of working in the Dean of Students office?
A: There’s never a dull moment in the office; with each student that comes in for help, I learn something new. I enjoy being part of the solution to a challenge, and I really enjoy working with students and developing compassion for all people. Students at DePaul come from all walks of life. Being a student here isn’t easy, between working with the quarter system, finding living situations on and off campus, commuting and personal emergencies. It’s been beneficial to me because I also find out what the university can do for me by handling each case. The office’s work is important because finding out what students need and experience is crucial to shaping the university’s future.

Q: Two years is a long time. How have you grown throughout your time as an office assistant?
A: I’ve gained a sense of emotional intelligence through learning how to interact with people and various crises on campus. You have to ground yourself and process information, then promptly direct students and faculty to the correct resources by understanding their needs.

Q: Outside of your jobs and student organizations, what are your hobbies?
A: I’m very into creative writing, film and animation. This past summer, I finished an animation I worked on for two years as a personal project. Writing has always been my way of expressing myself creatively, ever since grade school. I spend free time creating characters and fleshing them out, as well as writing poetry, stories and screenplays.
For me, writing was the gateway to film and screenwriting. One thing led to another: I wanted to visualize written works, which led to an interest in video production and editing, which led to toying around with animation and film production. I wanted to take visualization of creative writing to another level, using film as the platform.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: With my business management degree, I’d like to work in the business side of film production for a film or cinema-oriented company. My goal is to handle publication and production of content, learn how films and visual stories are created and see how films move from screenwriting to the screen. Eventually, I’d like to produce stories that I write and film myself, as well as publish my creative writing pieces. I’m pursuing business management to be more aware of how business works and become self-sufficient in creating and producing and content.

Thanks, Shemar! We look forward to seeing your future films and reading your future writings!