Dean’s Office restructuring aims to better meet student needs for long-term academic support
September 30, 2022
Over the summer, the Office of the Dean of Students underwent a structural change following an examination of its interactions with students. In the new structure, there is a new assistant dean for case management, and conduct issues are handled primarily by the director of community standards, rather than being distributed between class deans as they were previously.
“Our former model was unsustainable,” Dean of Students Kristina Bethea Odejimi wrote in an email to the Orient. “After collecting data over the last five semesters, the Office of the Dean of Students has a better understanding of who utilizes our services and why.”
The restructuring also entails two new staff members: Assistant Class Dean Roosevelt Boone who works primarily with seniors, and the new Assistant Dean for Case Management Lisa Hardej. Additionally, F-1 visa students are assigned to a specific dean, who oversees immigration paperwork. The changes went into effect on July 1.
Hardej explained that her position is intended to provide additional support to students over extended periods of time. The position is new to Bowdoin; in the previous office structure, long-term cases were handled by class deans as they came up, rather than being redirected to this more specialized role.
“I work with students who need a little bit more intensive support for a period of time. And that can be for lots of different reasons: health reasons, family reasons,” Hardej said. “If someone’s coming back to campus after a period of time away, I’m working with them to make sure that that transition is smooth and the connection to resources.”
This new position, Hardej said, was created because Bowdoin recognized that there was a need for more time and support for students going through periods of difficulty.
ents and Director of Community Standards Michael Pulju explained that the restructuring—and specifically the delegation of intensive cases to Hardej’s position—allows class deans much more freedom to be proactive rather than reactive in their relationships with students.
“A lot of the work we do is reactive by design,” Pulju said. “It could be that a student made a difficult decision, and we need to meet with them about it. It could mean that life really dealt them a difficult blow that they weren’t expecting, or a tough call from home about a family member … They’re going to have more capacity to be more present, like at sporting events, to engage with students that maybe they wouldn’t typically have spent time with.”
Additionally, in the previous model, all deans dealt with conduct to some degree and were responsible for holding students accountable for violations of the Social Code. Now, the majority of conduct is handled by Pulju, who also oversees the Conduct Review Board and the Program for Non-Violence and Conflict Resolution as well as serving as the Deputy Title IX Coordinator. This restructuring frees other deans to engage with other students in different ways.
“There is a common misconception that all we do is conduct,” Odejimi wrote. “We now know from the data that is simply not true. Conduct is one of the smallest percentages of the work deans manage daily. We want students to engage with us, and they do not have to be in crisis or ‘trouble’ to do so. We are here to support the student experience however that may take form.”
Ultimately, the office’s goal in restructuring is to think critically about how best to meet student needs.
“I think that it’s an exciting building time, because everybody is exploring the capacities of these new roles,” Hardej said. “My work is new here, but not new in the world, not new to me. So, I’m excited about the opportunity to bring this campus into a new model and some new structures that I think are going to be really beneficial to supporting students. It’s taking the work that’s already existed and funneling it in a way that’s going to be really efficient and beneficial.”
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