Building a Community: Diana Mejia, VP for Student and Campus Services

If you want to know how something at Columbia University Irving Medical Center works, from the mail room to contract bidding to campus catering to landscaping, it’s a safe bet that Diana Mejia knows the answer. In the course of her nearly 25-year career at the medical center, beginning as the associate dean for operations management for the Mailman School of Public Health, her work has touched nearly every aspect of campus life.

Now, as the first vice president for student and campus services, she is bringing her knowledge of people, spaces, and operations at CUIMC to transform the experience of being at the medical center.

“There are so many opportunities to change things for the better,” Mejia says. “The goal is to create and support a more inclusive experience and a campus that has a real sense of place. A lot of my role is just being a bridge, connecting folks and resources so that we can be strategic about achieving our goals and reach more people with our programs.”

In October 2018, Mejia was a part of Facilities Management’s Cycle Operations team for Velocity, Columbia's Ride to End Cancer. 

Mejia began her career in community building and urban redevelopment by working as a community organizer and affordable housing advocate in San Francisco and in a position with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in New Jersey. Her background in community building has informed her career at Columbia, where she has ultimately the same goals.

“At the crux of who I am is somebody who really believes in community building and community organizing and participation and giving voice to a lot of folks who may not feel empowered,” says Mejia. “All the different disciplines I've studied, from city planning to real estate development to construction, were really about redeveloping communities and bringing in new services.”

Throughout Mejia’s career at CUIMC, she has overseen numerous campus improvement projects, including enhancement of the customer service experience and staff development efforts for campus services, including custodial, parking, campus mail, and grounds.

In 2020, Mejia's team worked collaboratively with the Office of Housing Services and Facilities Engineering to ensure LED light bulbs were installed into Towers 1, 2 and 3 to reduce energy consumption. Read more.

In her new role overseeing student and campus services, addressing space on campus is a high priority. Space across the Columbia system is a delicate issue, finite in nature, often challenging to arrange for events, and providing few opportunities for the community to gather freely. Mejia and her team are organizing a working group to create better systems to maximize the use of available spaces and make them more accessible financially and operationally.

“We want to rethink the whole concept of public and community spaces,” Mejia says. “We need to look at space holistically, not siloed by school or department, so we can identify the gaps in the types of spaces we need and make our usable spaces shared common resources.”

By opening up spaces on campus, Mejia sees opportunity for campus service providers and schools to work more collaboratively on events and community building initiatives.

“We have great service providers who are all committed to improving the experience of our students, faculty, and staff,” Mejia says. “The goal now is to bring them all together in service of our larger mission of being agents of change and creating a new sense of place and belonging, to have a better experience of what it is to be here.”

Mejia is also part of the team that organizes commencement events each year, which require coordination among many departments and offices at the medical center.

In her first year, Mejia has kicked off a revitalization of the athletic center in 50 Haven Ave., brought in a new chef in Faculty Club, and redesigned the package center for residential students with a central mail room and text alerts when packages arrive. Next up is a reconfiguring of on-campus parking offerings that are more in line with employees’ hybrid schedules, more extensive event and A/V support services through the Faculty Club, and the potential for new student housing at 170th Street and Broadway.

“Our team is starting to get a little happy buzz, because the prospects are so good looking ahead, and that's such a good feeling,” Mejia says. “Even incremental, small changes are all working toward the greater goal of doing things better and improving the experience, and that's really the aim of this office.”