Rebecca Biron appointed Dean of the College

by Priya Ramaiah | 6/25/15 7:00pm

Rebecca Biron, a comparative literature and Spanish professor, hopes to emphasize community building as Dean of the College.

Spanish and comparative literature professorRebecca Biron will be the nextDean of the College, Provost Carolyn Dever announced Monday. Biron will assume the role on July 1, 2015.

Biron will oversee new residentialcommunities and the professors directing them. She will also work on issues of student inclusivity and diversity in addition to providing leadership in admissions and financial aidstrategic planning, according to a College press release.

A faculty member since 2006, Biron previously served as associate master of Pearson Residential College at the University of Miami, living in a residence hall where she worked on programming, leadership and advising for the students.She will work with the six house professorsselectedin May to plan the new residential community program over the next year.

Changes to the Dean of the College positionannounced in Aprildictated that the next deanwould be a tenured faculty member. Reorganization of the division has focused the role more on the direction ofacademics at the College, including integrating academics in student life beyond curricular learning.

Biron’s appointment as Dean of the College is for a four-year term.She will continue to teach after she assumes her role as Dean.

Interim Dean of the College Inge-Lise Ameer will take on her new appointment as vice provost for student affairs on July 1.Ameer was selected for the newly created position inApril.

Thoughher goals are “prettygeneral,” Biron said, theyalign with the organizational change in the Dean of the College role.

“My main goal is just to be an effective liaison between academics and student life,” she said.

Biron said that she believes that the Dean of the College division has always been strong, but that the restructuring of the dean’s role allows for a clearer focus. The Dean of the College’s role prior to this restructuring was “getting far too big and unwieldy for one person to do,” she said.

Biron also emphasized that having a faculty memberserve as dean is “radically important for keeping the educational mission of the College front and center in every aspect of student life.”

Her experience at the University of Miami showed her that residential college systems allow the entire institution to benefit from the knowledge that students bring with them that may not be directly related to classroom learning, she said.

“A house system allows us to take advantage of what the students bring to thecommunity,” she said.“And to think of all of us together as a learning community will end up providing a rich resource for everyone.”

Biron added that she hopes to work with the new house professors to “enhance” the plans that they already have. She alsoadded that she hopes to “keep an experimental attitude in the forefront” of the implementation of the residential system.

“This is a community effort, and everybody is going to get to participate,” she said.

Biron stressed that there are already existing opportunities for “co-curricular learning,” such as the Dartmouth Outing Club, various service and leadership programs and the Greek system. She said that her work will consist of determining how to bring these existing outlets into a more productive coexistence.

“In an ideal universe, what we want Dartmouth students to have is a transformative experience that prepares them for lifelong learning and leadership,” she said. “A baseline requirement for that is inter-group, inter-cultural communication skills and learning how to really activate respect across social differences.”

Biron said that, in general, the “Moving Dartmouth Forward” policy initiative, which called for the residential house system’s implementation,aligns with her goals to improvecommunication between student groups and create more of a “24-7 learning community.”

“Where there is student resistance to [“Moving Dartmouth Forward”], or student resistance to anything in terms of organizational change, I would just want to encourageeverybody to recognize that all of us want to make the residential learning experience here deeper and more fun for everyone,” she said.

Dever said that Biron’s experience with students, including in a residential college setting, will be a great asset to the College.

“She’s well known, experienced, combines the very best of the scholar-teacher model at Dartmouth, and she’s a really well respected member of our community,” Dever said.

Biron will play a very strong role in the shaping of the residential college system, Dever added, as the system is still in its design stages with new house professors having been appointed recently.

The professors’ visions for each of their respective house communities will be developed with Biron’s help, she said.

“Biron is going to be really critical to the development of these discussions,” Dever said. “We need houses that are each unique, but that are connected strongly and with a kind of shared purpose that means consistency for Dartmouth students across their experience, regardless of which house they’re in.”

Ashneil Jain ’15, a member of the selection committee and co-moderator of the Paleopitus senior society, said that Biron will have a unique role in defining her own obligations within her role’s areas of importance, such as the residential system.

“She has a unique position in the middle of the triangle of students, faculty and administrators,” Jain said.

Committee member and Thayer School of Engineering professor Solomon Diamond said that while the selection committee collected information and recommended names, it was Dever who made the final decision.

“In my view the process was fairly conducted, all candidates were taken very seriously, and the committee handled the process with a high level of professionalism,” he said.

Laura Weiss contributed reporting to this story.

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