Hanlon begins campus outreach

by Taylor Malmsheimer | 7/4/13 10:00pm

by Blaze Joel and Blaze Joel / The Dartmouth

Hanlon, who said he hopes to host regular student dinners, recently launched open office hours to make himself accessible to students.

Over the past six months, Hanlon has spoken with faculty and alumni understand how Dartmouth has changed since he graduated. Hanlon said students were the most difficult group to reach during this transition period.

"I know that I still need to learn about the campus, so I'm still doing that work this summer," Hanlon said. "I think that one of the groups I'm most interested in reaching out to is the students."

Hanlon said he hopes to better understand students' academic and co-curricular experiences and glean insight into how to improve the Dartmouth community.

"They are a talented, engaging and creative set of people, and I want to know what their ideas are for making Dartmouth a better place," he said.

Last weekend, Hanlon spoke at the annual Greek Leadership Conference, then headed to Moosilauke Ravine Lodge with his wife Gail Gentes, to meet students after Strips. Hanlon said he hopes to continue working with student groups.

The couple currently has a "string of dinners" scheduled with various campus groups, he said.

Student body president Adrian Ferrari '14 said Hanlon's efforts to meet students in their own spaces will influence how students form their first impressions of the president.

"I think that getting to know each other personally and recognizing that we're all real people is really important," Ferrari said.

Ferrari said the dinners reflect a commitment to the student body.

"Putting this much effort into engaging with students in the beginning has really helped him establish himself as someone who actually cares about students' real lives, and isn't using this position as a kind of stepping stone," Ferrari said.

Hanlon will use recommendations from Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson and Dean of Graduate Studies Jon Kull to invite students to his dinners. The remaining students will be selected randomly.

Daniel Calano '15, who attended the first of these dinners on Tuesday, said the dinners are a first step to establish relationships between students and the administration.

"I think it will be such a great way for President Hanlon to meet a handful of students across campus who are involved in different things and have had different experiences at Dartmouth," Calano said.

Hanlon's open office hours, announced in a campus email on June 26, began on Tuesday.

While Calano applauded Hanlon's decision to hold office hours, he expressed concern about the limited number of students who will take advantage of them.

"My concern is that office hours will bring up the same issues that are always brought up by the same voices," Calano said. "I'm concerned that people who aren't reached out to won't ever reach out themselves, and then their voices are never really heard."

Hanlon said he plans to spend most of the time listening to students.

"One of the things I'm looking for is to listen a lot listen to different perspectives and then see what things I hear over and over," Hanlon said.

Hanlon said he will eventually transition from listening to testing ideas and gauging reactions.

His summer outreach initiatives will likely continue into the fall.

Calano said he hopes Hanlon will help to repair a disconnect between the administration and various campus constituencies.

"I think getting the faculty involved would be a huge goal for this administration," Calano said. "I think it's great that Hanlon's reaching out to students, but it would also be great if faculty can be involved, maybe invited to dinner and then asked to spread the knowledge they gain with other faculty."

Hanlon called student opinions crucial to forming his understanding of Dartmouth.

"I'm really hopeful that students will open up and be direct and be honest," Hanlon said. "I'm not going to be able to accomplish my understanding if that doesn't happen."