Deans join undergrad. advising staff

by Diana Ming and Felicia Schwartz | 11/21/11 11:00pm

Editor's Note: This is the final installment in a three-part series chronicling recent changes to the College's advising structure.

Coming from diverse backgrounds in multicultural affairs at other universities and residential life programs within the College, five new undergraduate assistant deans have joined the Undergraduate Deans Office over the past six months. Paul Buckley, June Chu, Brian Reed and Natalie Hoyt were hired in newly-created roles to increase advising accessibility for students, and former acting Director of Greek Letter Organizations and Societies Kristi Clemens assumed the position vacated by former Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Students Colleen Larimore, who resigned last spring, Dean of Undergraduate Students Deborah Tyson said.

The Undergraduate Deans Office received more than 130 applications for the open positions, according to Tyson.

"There were lots of individuals out there with a lot of degrees and experience, but we really were looking for people who could communicate well with a variety of constituents on campus, from students to the senior administration," she said.

Buckley assumed his position on Oct. 10 and described his experience at the College as very rewarding.

Buckley has been involved with student affairs and advising for over a decade, and has worked with under-represented and multicultural groups, he said.

Buckley was most recently the associate dean of the student life division at Andrews University, a small faith-based college in Berrien Springs, Mich., he said. Buckley previously served as the associate director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs at Syracuse University, where he founded a nationally-recognized peer advising program known as WellsLink, which matches first-year students with upperclassmen peer leaders to promote leadership and improve the academic excellence.

"The programming aspects of my experience advising, mentoring and helping students navigate their time on campuses definitely comes to bear in this role," he said.

At the College, Buckley advises approximately 500 members of the Class of 2012, he said. Each year, the deans are assigned a certain group of students, and those deans continue to advise the students until they graduate, according to Tyson.

"I think the rotation model here is great for continuity and relationship-building," Buckley said. "Completing a cycle of advising an entire class through their four years gives everyone a sense of accomplishment and achievement."

In addition to receiving their undergraduate student assignments, the deans have each received one "functional area of focus" that they develop and oversee, Tyson said. Buckley will work primarily in peer advising, which includes managing the Deans Office Student Consultant program, he said.

Buckley said that during his first year as s dean, he hopes to fully learn about the College's traditions, both academic and otherwise.

"I'd like to develop to become an excellent assistant dean and enhance what we do in this office," he said. "I'm really looking forward to meeting more students and understanding what their Dartmouth experiences are like."

Chu began working at the College on Oct. 3 and advises first-year students living in the Choates Cluster, she said in an interview with The Dartmouth.

Chu previously worked with students at the University of Pennsylvania as the director of the Pan-Asian American Community House. At Penn, she also advised Asian-American student groups and was a pre-major advisor in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Chu recently hosted a stereotypes workshop with members of the Asian-American community at Dartmouth, she said. Student Support Services staff have recently been discussing issues such as "cultural competency," and Chu participated in a workshop dedicated to helping staff work with students from a variety of communities, she said.

Chu aims to build relationships with her students and create more "proactive programming," such as drop-in hours, she said.

Reed began his post in July and said he is excited to return to the College after previously working at the Office of Residential Life. Reed left the College several years ago to obtain his PhD in higher education at the University of Virginia, but came back to Dartmouth "for the students," he said.

A fiercely loyal UVA alumnus, Reed can typically be seen in the undergraduate deans' new location in Baker-Berry Library wearing UVA colors of navy and orange. Reed often decked out in a navy bow tie advises members of the Class of 2014 in his office as a bust of UVA founder and former President Thomas Jefferson looks on, outfitted in a matching school-spirited bow tie.

"I really enjoy advising sophomores because the second year marks a changing period of time in one's college experience," Reed said. "Sophomores are asking tough questions about selecting courses, deciding on majors and minors and much more that forces a kind of introspection that I can help students with."

As part of Reed's specialization in the office's outreach efforts, he has created the "Deans To Go" program, which aims to bring advising to already-established groups on campus, including affinity houses, Greek organizations and special interest groups, he said. Reed also created an Undergraduate Deans Office Facebook page to update students on academic information and started an informal coffee and tea social with his advisees so he can meet students in a relaxed setting.

"A lot of students hear myths or go through negative experiences with seeing a dean," Reed said. "At the informally-speaking events, there are no agendas and I've enjoyed the chain reaction the different methods have created in becoming a public relations tool for the Undergraduate Deans Office and a way for students to become interested in seeking my help."

Reed said he would like to eventually see the Undergraduate Deans Office adjust to better accommodate the needs of all students.

"I'm a researcher by training, so I would like to see us use institutional and department data to drive best practices in advising," he said. "We should look to document and justify changes in policy to make sure we're being smart about our services."

The office is currently in its initial data collection phase and is using a matrix developed to assess student reaction to the current advising system. Tyson said the Undergraduate Deans Office will be able to analyze the data by the end of next week to determine if additional assessments are necessary for Winter term.

Hoyt began her role in mid-September after working for ORL as a community director and First-Year Residential Experience program advisor, she said. Hoyt currently advises first-years living in the River and McLaughlin clusters. In addition to educating her students on academics and resources, Hoyt said her personal goal as an undergraduate assistant dean is to meet as many of her assigned students as possible.

"I think just being available to students who want to ask me questions for a variety of reasons is extremely important," she said.

Hoyt's functional focus is on improving the College's first-year experience through a weekly newsletter, late-night programming and course-selection programming, she said.

"I loved shaping the concept of community at Dartmouth as a community director, but it is also rewarding to help students find their academic passions to become world leaders," Hoyt said.

Clemens began her position as dean on July 1 after stepping down as acting GLOS director, a positions she held for one year, she said in an interview with The Dartmouth. Director of GLOS Wes Schaub replaced Clemens in mid-July.

Clemens, who advises half of the Class of 2013, is also the acting dean for students of the East Wheelock Cluster. Her functional focus is student crisis management, and she is improving the current support network for students with academic and personal problems, Clemens said.

Clemens said she hopes to transform the perception of advising at the College.

"I want students to realize that going to our office should not be a scary thing," she said. "We want to remove the perceptions of the office that came from being located at Parkhurst as students once perceived it to the familiarity of the library setting. We're not just bureaucrats, but real people."

Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Students Kent Yrchik-Shoemaker declined to comment for this article. Assistant Deans of Undergraduate Students Teoby Gomez, Leigh Remy and Lisa Thum did not respond for comment by press time.