New Assistant Director of Student Activities is Hired

Michael Steele has been hired as the new assistant director of student activities, taking over the position that Gabrielle Occhiogrosso left behind in November 2014.

Michael Steele is the new assistant director of student activities. Daniel Ynfante/The Quadrangle
Michael Steele is the new assistant director of student activities.
Daniel Ynfante/The Quadrangle

A three-month hiring process that John Bennett, director of student activities, says garnered hundreds of applicants, culminated with the decision to hire Steele, formerly the director of campus life and operations at Lehman College.

Steele, as are many people who begin new jobs, is full of excitement for his newest endeavor.

“It’s a good challenge,” Steele said. “Coming from an urban school background from Lehman College and coming here is a different environment. So it’s a good challenge. I like that. I just look forward to working with the students and seeing what they’re all about.”

Steele comes to Manhattan College with much prior experience in working with students and helping with organizing events and budgeting.

A graduate of the College of Mount Saint Vincent, Steele also took a class one semester at Manhattan and knows the area well.

His familiarity with the job was what made him stand out among the other applicants according to Bennett. It is something Bennett hopes Steele can use to pick up right where Occhiogrosso left off.

“Not to skip a beat,” Bennett said about his expectations for Steele. “In terms of what would be ideal for us is that the students don’t notice any difference and that’s a seamless transition.

“It reminds me of the NBA. When you notice a referee, they’re not doing their job. When the game is over and you didn’t notice the referee, that means they did their job. So a seamless transition to that effect.”

The desire to employ someone who could step right in without much introduction was the main reason why Bennett decided to hire Steele.

When Occhiogrosso stepped down in November, Bennett was left with the tough task of finding a replacement with just two months left in the fall semester.

But Bennett and the rest of the student activities staff decided it was best to wait until the start of the spring semester to introduce a new assistant director.

In an email to the Quadrangle in February, Bennett explained the reasoning behind his decision.

“Our first concern and priority was the current student body,” Bennett wrote in an email. “I felt us reading resumes [and] interviewing people….could wait until winter break. We had to put the students first and if that meant working more hours, then so be it, but the office comes second after the students.”

Therefore, Steele was interviewed in December—albeit in an unconventional way through Skype—and then visited the campus in January.

He began on Feb. 23, so he has only been in office for a little more than a week, but with what he has seen so far, Steele thinks he made the right decision in coming to Manhattan.

“It’s been good, a lot of information,” Steele said. “Of course, with a new job you just have to get used to the inner workings of the office because even if it’s the same field, each school might have their own system on how to do things. But it’s been great so far.”

Bennett set out to hire a qualified replacement who could make Occhiogrosso’s departure less apparent. He landed his target in “The Man of Steel,” as Michael Sullivan, director of campus life and operations at Lehman College says Steele was referred to at Lehman.

“I think [Manhattan College] can expect excellence,” Sullivan said.

“He’s very involved… He’s very well-liked by the students. I would say loved by the students because of his genuine, good, sheer, deep commitment to I think higher education, and availability. He’s just an easy guy to get to know and very effective as an administrator.”