Dean of Students candidate Jan Collins-Eaglin emphasized expanding the role of Student Affairs, orientation, student activism and caring for everyone’s mental health when she visited campus April 14-15.
Expanding the role of student affairs would mean increasing its visibility and the services it provides. Collins-Eaglin would like to see the student affairs office become the social, academic, and emotional hub on-campus. Faculty would integrate themselves better with the office, for instance by having faculty do research on issues of student affairs (i.e. a sexual assault report). In order to create a campus-wide sense of school spirit, Scripps can host events around sports events and take pride in its academic achievements by counting the number of Fullbrights we acquire. All in all, she says, “We need to be proud in saying things out loud. We have to get over our reservations, and have pride in what we do!”
Collins-Eaglin notes that orientation is a very intense time for a first year, and so it needs to be re-looked. The two weeks host so many events that it is good to look at times when students can take a breath. There are first-years who aren’t social and don’t like hanging around with so many people, and so they need more solitary time to reflect. Therefore, she suggests taking a look at how the activities of orientation can be evenly spread out throughout the year. Often, the second year of college can be neglected, and so she would also want to evaluate the sophomore year experience.
Concurrent with ongoing conversations on diversity, Collins-Eaglin highlights the importance of creating a continuing dialogue. She states, “Rather than the superficial eating of Mexican food and celebrating diversity, we need to train students to listen. Not to debate, but to have a real dialogue.” She continuously associates the challenges of marginalized students to a struggle they should celebrate. She says, “I celebrate the struggle. As long as there is a struggle, the college will always be dynamic…. Celebrate the struggle; it is a sign of growth, that you are challenging the administration.”
As a psychologist in training, Collins-Eaglin is committed to improving the mental health of every student. She feels that Student Affairs has the critical role of dealing with the stressful demands of college life. Students, arriving here have to deal with time management, relationships, friendships, and academics, and so can crack under it all. The 5Cs (extrapolating roughly from Pomona College data) have a higher rate of students with anxiety, stress, depression, and loneliness. To address this, Collins-Eaglin wishes to create real strategic planning on what mental health programs should look like on campus. Monsour is understaffed and under-resourced, and so she knows it cannot be the whole solution.
To students suffering from mental health problems, she says, “I think you are a hero, going to school with a diagnosis.” She thinks it is imperative that students tell their professors about their disabilities themselves, because in the real world, no one will do it for them. She wishes to create a mental health working group and reevaluate the type of student affairs programming that we can offer.
Charlotte Johnson came to campus on April 16-17 to meet with students and staff. In her meeting with students, she said that she made the transition from working at a law school to an undergraduate institution because undergraduates are more exciting and dynamic, and she enjoys working so much. She has previously worked at the University of Michigan, Colgate University, and Dartmouth College, and said the scale and size of Scripps attracted her to apply here.
Like many of the candidates, Johnson said the first thing she would do if hired would be to establish relationships here at Scripps. She said that that processes can be labor intensive, but that that is the foundation for all the other work she will do. When asked how long she intends to stay at Scripps, she joked “As long as you’ll have me.” She said that she intends to say for at least five years, but would stay longer if Scripps is a good fit and if she has good support. She noted that she served as an assistant dean at the University of Michigan’s Law School for nine years, as the vice president and dean of the college at Colgate for 5 years, and as dean of the college at Dartmouth for three years. She added that she is “not a jumper.” She has only spent three years at Dartmouth, but said that she has had three different bosses during her time there, so she felt it was time to look into other options.
In order to connect with students, Johnson said that in the past she has often had students over to her house for dinner. Previously, she has gone over her budget having so many dinners because she enjoyed building connections with students that way. She also emphasized that, though she is a black woman, “I’m a dean for all students, so everyone has a place at my table.” She added that focusing on certain communities in order to do the right thing does not detract from the institution.