November 17, 2020
Mary Anne Hempe has dedicated her career to serving students at the University of Oklahoma (OU) for the past 29 years. Her co-workers, peers, students, and friends will bid her a fond farewell at the end of the current fall semester as she begins her retirement. Hempe is currently the Assistant Dean of Student Services for the College of Atmospheric & Geographic Sciences (A&GS) where she has been an employee since the College’s inception in 2006. Hempe’s service at OU included positions in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Gaylord College of Journalism.
Hempe’s retirement will leave a huge void and her shoes will be hard to fill. Anyone spending more than a few minutes with Hempe immediately feels her passion for and recognizes her dedication to every student who has stood before her. Hempe’s greatest source of pride in her role as a student counselor is knowing that her support and mentorship to students who were on the brink of failing, struggling academically or personally, ultimately helped them achieve their goal of graduating. Hempe happily remembers and celebrates every student with whom she’s met from those who struggled to those who excelled. Hempe is proud to say that her actions helped change the structure of advising at OU and is confident that resources will continue to grow after her departure.
A Fine Arts graduate from Central Michigan University and Western Illinois University, Hempe worked at Oklahoma State University for nine years as first Assistant, then Associate Professor of Theatre. When questioned as to why she made the move from Stillwater, she responds that it was the atmosphere of Norman and the support system it offered to her young family that drew her south. Hempe began her journey at OU in October of 1991 with the College of Arts and Sciences. Hempe points out that in those days, class schedules were on paper because computer systems for enrolling didn’t exist. Hempe recalls that in those early days there was little academic staff available for advising so faculty members were considered professional advisors. Hempe has seen the advising process come a long way and points to the elevated role of student services as being a major benefit to students. Hempe gives credit for the growth in advising and student services at OU to her personal mentors Ann Corbett and Virginia Odell. She also notes that Former Assistant Dean Pamela Neal played a huge role in her career at OU; Neal was the driving force behind Hempe’s initial hire into the College of A&GS and became Hempe’s primary mentor at OU. Neal was also a strong advocate of Hempe becoming the new Assistant Dean upon Neal’s retirement in 2009. Hempe also credits former Dean John T. Snow as an important influence for his leadership and knowledge of academics.
She adds that along with the value that the University now places on advising, there is also investment in a structure to help students with their personal, financial, and academic struggles. Hempe said that while there is always room for the University and the Colleges to grow, it is satisfying to see how far things have advanced during her tenure.
Hempe’s advice to current and prospective students is to remember that their time at OU is a temporary, transition period in their lives and should be enjoyed. She adds that often students start out by saying, “I’m sorry to bother you”, but that they should never be afraid to ask for help. It is the role of student services staff to be there for any questions, big or small. Hempe also notes that for some students, taking a semester off is beneficial to reset their course even if most are reluctant to consider it at first. Hempe further encourages students to study abroad or find a challenging internship away from Oklahoma saying that it may be the only time in their life when they will be able to do so. Hempe’s final advice to students is to only take classes that are impactful for their degree program given today’s costs of higher education. She stresses the importance of students developing a plan and taking advantage of student services resources to ensure that they are on the right path.
Hempe saved her last comments for her coworkers and AGS alumni saying, “It has been so much fun working with all of you!” She says she will remember A&GS fondly and hopes that once the mania of the COVID pandemic is over, there will be an opportunity for a reunion to celebrate how we all have an impact on the College and each other.