Mary Pat McMahon, the associate dean of student affairs and the director of Residential Life (ResLife), will be leaving the College over Spring Break to become the dean of student affairs at Tufts University. Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster announced her departure in a schoolwide email sent on February 12.
McMahon’s imminent departure—which was received by many shocked members of the Bowdoin community—comes in her twelfth year at Bowdoin. Arriving at the College in 2002 as assistant dean of student affairs, McMahon became the dean of first-year students in 2006 and then took up the directorship of ResLife in the fall of 2008.
“She is such a day-to-day presence, not just someone locked in her office with a ton of administration things to do and no time to talk to an RA in Brunswick or a proctor,” said Salem Harry ’14, who is head Resident Advisor (RA) in Coles Tower and who has been on the ResLife staff for three years.
Her new role at Tufts will differ from her current position at Bowdoin. Perhaps most notably, McMahon will now serve as a dean to approximately 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students in the arts and sciences and engineering programs. She will oversee Tufts’ residential life program, judicial board, and what the University calls the “Group of Six”—the LGTBQAI Center, Women’s Center, Africana Center, Latino Center and International Center.
The news released in Foster’s email on February 12 noted that McMahon will take up her new position at Tufts in March, during Bowdoin’s Spring Break. She will be on campus to take part in the final decisions regarding next year’s ResLife staff selection, but she will not be a part of the final selection of College House residents for next year.
“It’s not by design meant to be disruptive to the institution,” said McMahon. “It’s really more based on life offering me a pretty terrific opportunity right now but it definitely comes with the idea that I need to get there. If I’m going to take the opportunity I have to go. People here have been great about recognizing that and being supportive about it.”
While her husband and two children stay in Brunswick until the school year ends in June, McMahon will move to the Boston area and split her time between Boston and Maine. Her family will then move permanently this summer. She cites that this decision and move comes in part because she wants to be closer to her mother.
McMahon will take on the role of Bruce Reitman, who is now the Dean of Campus Life and Leadership at Tufts. Tufts posted the job opportunity in October and stated that the candidate would need to begin in the middle of the spring semester. McMahon had a campus visit in January and found out that she got the job last week.
“We are ecstatic about our selection, and we look forward to her getting here,” said John Barker, dean of undergraduate and graduate students at Tufts, in an interview with the Orient. “She brings a high level of energy, she’s extremely smart, charismatic, understands people, understands students, and is really able to engage individually.”
Meadow Davis, associate director of student affairs and deputy Title IX coordinator, will take over McMahon’s role as soon as she leaves. This will not be an interim position.
“I am incredibly excited about the ResLife piece,” said Davis. “MP left very, very big shoes to fill. I’m not completely sure of all of the details of what my role will be there yet.”
McMahon said that she had no doubts about Davis’ capacity to take over.
“Meadow has the incredible ability to be somebody who is at the nexus of a lot of things and helping everybody get better—she is perfect for this job in the sense that she will be a resource and an innovative and responsive presence in a lot of ways,” said McMahon.
This announcement comes a week after Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Jarrett Young announced he would be leaving at the end of the academic year. In addition to these two departures, the four-person ResLife staff has seen significant turnover in the past year, with former Assistant Director of Residential Life Chris Rossi ’10 leaving last spring and former Associate Director of Residential Education Ben Farrell leaving at the end of January 2013.
“There have been a lot of transitions in the office in the past year so I think all those transitions definitely exacerbated the emotions surrounding Mary Pat leaving,” said Head RA of Brunswick Apartments Neli Vasquez ’14. “We always say ‘ResLife, ResLove,’ because it’s a family in addition to a job and it’s like the mother of that family is leaving. But because it is like a family we are always so happy for each other. I can’t stress enough how happy people are for her.”
-Nicole Wetsman and Marisa McGarry contributed to this report.