Q&A with interim Dean of the College Scott Brown

Brown reflects on his time spent at Dartmouth and shares advice for the Class of 2022.

by Kaia Culotta | 6/12/22 5:05am

Source: Courtesy of Scott Brown

This article is featured in the 2022 Commencement & Reunions special issue. 

Scott Brown is interim Dean of the College, a two-year position he has held since August 2021, and the senior officer responsible for academic and extracurricular life. The Dartmouth sat down with Brown to discuss his experiences as interim Dean and how the College has changed since he served as an area director of residential life for the College in the early 90s. Brown also offered advice for the graduating Class of 2022, as well as his thoughts on how they have shown resilience throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. 

How would you describe your experience as interim Dean of the College this past year?

SB: Amazing. It’s super great to be back. I was here in the early 90s, so it was basically my first job, so this is a really personal and professionally transformative place. I’m a first-generation college student on my mom’s side, so I had no idea a place like Dartmouth existed. I really imprinted on the potential and possibility of being in this really intensive and intimate learning community, and I’ve always really looked forward to the opportunity to be able to come back. The things that are the same are that the students are incredibly smart, interested and interesting, warm and fun, generous and just really neat to be around, so getting a chance to see them develop over the course of my time here has been great, and hopefully I can help launch students to impact their future careers and communities. Right now, I’ve got a lot of students whose parents were young students when I was here in the 90s and who have kids here now, so it’s particularly gratifying to see second-generation people that I’ve met who are just like their parents in the best ways. 

Can you talk about your experience working for the College in the 1990s as an area director of residential life? How do you think the College has changed since then?

SB: The best parts of Dartmouth are the same, but it really continues to evolve. It’s a very kinetic, dynamic, positive, restless place. So for example, when I was here, I was the only professional staff overseeing the east half of the residential life programs, and now you have a much greater amount of masters level folks. The house system is a pretty extraordinary achievement, particularly in how quickly it has come up. The campus has grown –– Berry Library had not been built when I left and certainly nothing since then, and also just the commitment to getting the best and brightest students nationally and internationally is even more apparent now than back in the 90s. So just the amount of horsepower in the student body is pretty extraordinary, and knowing that each one of you brings something special to the whole community, which has been broadened and deepened since I’ve been here, is great.

What advice do you have for the Class of 2022?

SB: The question will never be, “What are you capable of doing?” But more, “What is it that you want to do?” And that’s really being a good critical consumer of your own happiness and really letting your values and interests guide your decisions. Your twenties are a very exciting, turbulent time, and it’s also a time of great exploration and experimentation, and so they will always learn something in these first couple adventures that they have. But they should always pay attention to what they find important and exciting, and why and how they use that knowledge as they think about whatever decisions lie in front of them.

Can you recall a particularly memorable piece of advice you received when you were graduating college?

SB: I was fortunate that I had lots of mentors and people who saw a lot more in me than I saw in myself and encouraged me to do the thing I was essentially doing anyway. And they said, “You can have a career where you’re doing this for the rest of your life,” so that equipped me with thinking about what is important to me, and then making decisions that give me an opportunity to pour myself into those new contexts. I’m the equivalent of an orientation assistant who has never left that role –– I just wear a tie now.

The Class of 2022, as with every class present on campus over the past two years, has had their Dartmouth experience changed and disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. How do you think the Class of 2022 has shown resilience in the past four years?

SB: They’ve had nearly every curveball we could imagine thrown at them, and we really appreciate how difficult that has been. It is, objectively, a very difficult time to be in higher education, but it’s still their precious college years, and having that disrupted by COVID-19 and national unrest is something that I know has impacted a portion of their college experience in a negative way. So, our hope is that they wouldn’t be who they are if they did not go through this journey together and still be able to rise to the challenges of a Dartmouth education. And this will make them that much more prepared to really make an impact on their future careers and communities –– because I think they really had to figure out what was most important to them. They had to improvise, and they had to find ways to move forward when there really wasn’t a playbook, and as you can imagine, when you graduate from college it goes from [the] black and white of high school to a thousand shades of gray. I think the Class of 2022 is in a much better position because of these difficulties that they’ve managed so well.