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New hires—a veteran, a globe-trotter, a teacher of an Olympian

September 14, 2018

A trio of new staff members in the Offices of Student Affairs and Residential Life hail from vastly different backgrounds, but each expressed similar desires to get to know students at Bowdoin.

Chad Coates, the associate dean of students and dean of first-year students, is an avid traveler and aims to visit 50 countries before he turns 50. Coates said he has particularly enjoyed time spent in Burkina Faso, Estonia and Iceland. Now, he is looking forward to a trip to the Kingdom of Bhutan. A sitcom enthusiast, Coates enjoys watching Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm and 30 Rock. Before coming to Bowdoin, Coates served as the assistant dean of admissions and advising in the College of Arts and Sciences at Cornell University.

Khoa Khuong, who previously held Coates’s position as dean of first-year students, is now assistant dean of upperclass students. Last year, Melissa Quinby was the interim dean of first-year students.

Michael Pulju is the other assistant dean of upperclass students. He previously held the position on an interim basis.

Wilmarie Rodriguez, the associate dean of student affairs and special assistant to the dean of student affairs, is an Army veteran and a former first-generation college student. She is also pursuing a Doctorate of Education at the College of William & Mary, where she previously worked as the assistant dean of students.

Mike Ranen, the director of residential and student life and associate dean of student affairs, hails from Massachusetts. As an avid Boston sports fan, he is excited to continue living in Red Sox territory. Prior to arriving in Brunswick, Ranen worked at Harvard University as a resident dean of freshmen.

Ranen said his “claim to fame” is teaching five-time Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky chemistry while working as a high school instructor. “I was always trying to get [Ledecky] to let us do chemical experiments on her gold medal,” Ranen said. “She never let us, though!”

Coates pointed to his relationship with a struggling former student as one of his most fulfilling educational moments. Coates said the student referred to him as “the reason I’m graduating college” and has since invited Coates to his wedding and newly purchased home.

Arriving from upstate New York, Boston and Virginia, the trio will experience a different lifestyle in Maine. Ranen said he is excited for a more “gentle pace” and easy access to the Maine coastline, especially with his two young children in tow. A favorite activity for Coates at Cornell was his role with the Ithaca Dragon Boat Club, although he acknowledges that the continuation of his unorthodox water sports hobby in Brunswick is unlikely and expressed interest in trying his hand at cross-country skiing instead.

Rodriguez, a fan of the “amazing New York Giants,” will also have to adjust to life in Patriots Nation.

Asked about their reasons for coming to Bowdoin, all three responded similarly. Each said they were motivated by the opportunity to interact directly with students, something they cited as a reason for pursuing a career in higher education.

Rodriguez pointed to her difficulties transitioning to college after military service as motivation for pursuing higher education. “I remember the feelings of frustration and despair trying to navigate enrolling into college and not having anyone that would have the compassion and patience to explain the process to me,” she said. “I wanted to make sure that no other student had to experience the same struggles.”

The three newcomers pointed to affinity groups, community service and mental health as areas they would like to specifically immerse themselves in. Coates declared his intention to maximize interaction with students, saying he plans both to meet all first years in small groups and to conduct one-on-one meetings at some point during the first semester.

The three are excited for the beginnings of their Bowdoin careers.



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