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Michael Pulju seeks to build community and connection as new dean of students

September 1, 2023

Michael Pulju has been named the College’s new senior associate dean for student affairs and dean of students. Janet Lohmann, senior vice president and dean for student affairs, announced Pulju’s promotion in an email to the Bowdoin community in early August.

In his new position, Pulju oversees departments focused on serving students across the College including the Student Accessibility Office, the Office of Residential Life and THRIVE. His primary goal is to deepen the relationship between students and administrators, particularly within the Office of the Dean of Students.

“This is a good opportunity for me to carve out new ways of connecting with students,” Pulju said. “Certainly, there are times when students might have a challenging conversation with one of us or disagree about the Code of Community Standards. But it all works better if they have seen us engaging outside of the office and building some level of connection—if they know who we are.”

Pulju’s hiring comes during a period of substantial administrative change for the College. In her first convocation speech on Tuesday, President Safa Zaki shared her unique connection to the Class of 2027, which is beginning at Bowdoin alongside her.

Pulju expressed enthusiasm about starting a new chapter amid such monumental shifts in the College community.

“I’m really excited about working with President Zaki,” Pulju said. “I see the change as an immense opportunity. Any time there’s a new leader—not that I am as cool as President Zaki—it’s a great time to learn to do the things we’re doing even better.”

Pulju replaced Kristina Bethea Odejimi as dean of students. Unlike Odejimi, who was hired via an external search committee, Pulju entered the role after nearly a decade of administrative experience at the College. He began in 2015 as associate director of residential life before moving to the dean’s office in 2016, where he served as an upperclass dean and, most recently, as associate dean of students and director of community standards.

Pulju feels his extensive experience at the College has softened the learning curve of his new position.

“I have a lot to learn about this new role, but being a class dean—working with students day in and day out, talking about concussions, personal leaves, dropping a class a day after the deadline—those are all things I don’t need to learn because I’ve lived them,” he said. “I know the rhythm of this place. I think that’s an immense benefit and allows me to hit the ground running.”

Pulju is deeply engaged with the Bowdoin community inside and outside of the dean’s office. He has served as a College House advisor to Reed, Burnett and Baxter Houses, worked closely with the Conduct Review Board and shared his passion for sea kayaking with students through the Bowdoin Outing Club.

Despite his enduring love for the community, Pulju didn’t expect to be thrust into his current role. When he talked to a dean of students at a small liberal arts college early in his career, he was sure the job wasn’t for him.

Evidently, he changed his mind—but not before many years of dedication and reflection.

“They asked me, ‘Would you want to be a dean of students?’ and I said, ‘Absolutely no,’” he recalled. “Now, I reflect upon that conversation [and realize] that there are times when you all of a sudden feel one hundred percent ready—when your experience, the relationships that you’ve built, and the person that you are all coalesce, and a new step becomes right for you.”


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