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Janet Lohmann to retire after over two decades at the College

February 16, 2024

After 21 years at the College, Senior Vice President and Dean for Student Affairs Janet Lohmann will retire at the end of July.

For Lohmann, this decision was difficult and required much thought.

“I spent winter break in a process of really reflecting on the last five years—I’ve been in this role five years and a lot has happened. And that was the time where I sort of came to the decision that I needed to close this chapter,” Lohmann said.

Lohmann started at Bowdoin as a visiting assistant professor in the sociology department, where she taught courses focused on gender, race and ethnicity, and criminology.

In 2007, Lohmann transitioned to the Division of Student Affairs, where she served as dean of first-year students. After a year as dean of students at Kenyon College from 2016–2017, she returned to Bowdoin as dean of students before entering her current role as dean of student affairs in 2019.

During her second stint as a dean at Bowdoin, Lohmann has played a pivotal role in creating many programs designed to support first-generation students, including THRIVE and initiatives like Bowdoin Advising in Support of Excellence (BASE), under its purview.

“College has transformed me, and I’ve lived my entire professional life in college, so when I think about the BASE advising program, I think about THRIVE and how we have really created some scaffolding for students for whom this place is really unfamiliar,” Lohmann said.

Senior Associate Dean for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Michael Pulju reflected on his time working with Lohmann, beginning when he joined Bowdoin in the fall of 2015.

“Some of the work in my relationship with her … is behind the scenes, so it may not always be so visible, but the piece that I really have taken from her and working closely with her is that she has a really deep care for this place,” Pulju said.

Pulju also spoke of his admiration of Lohmann and her unwavering commitment to the College and, most especially, students. He noted how Lohmann has led their division of the College under unique circumstances, including the Covid-19 pandemic. Pulju admires how she has balanced the challenges that come with her role along with her regular day-to-day responsibilities.

“As a mentor, a supervisor as a role model in my career, when there have been difficult conversations, challenging situations, I’ve never questioned [Lohmann’s] commitment to this place,” Pulju said. “Now, being committed to a place and having deep care doesn’t mean that that will always translate to agreement on the campus, … but I personally have never questioned [her commitment].… It’s hard to envision this institution without her, personally and professionally.”

One of the most recent projects Lohmann has worked on with her team is the repurposing of Ladd House, which transformed the former College House into a central hub for the Center of Multicultural Life; Sexuality, Women and Gender Center; the Rachel Lord Center for Religious and Spiritual Life; THRIVE and the Student Accessibility Office.

Another of Lohmann’s hallmark initiatives at Bowdoin is Gratitude Thursday, when Lohmann circles Smith Union with pens, cards, envelopes and stamps and encourages students to engage in thankful letter writing.

“Gratitude is a key value for her. And so the creation of Gratitude Thursday is how she does work. She’s so consistent during a presentation or something that one of us does to give a quick email of gratitude, to publicly, in whatever the venue, is to share appreciation,” Pulju said.

President Safa Zaki expressed her own gratitude for Lohmann in an email to the campus community announcing Lohmann’s retirement on Monday.

“I came to quickly learn why [Lohmann] is so respected across the College,” Zaki wrote. “I am grateful for her wise counsel and perspective, and I will miss her thoughtful leadership.”

As Lohmann reminisces on her time at Bowdoin, she hopes to move forward with a new mentality.

“I don’t know what comes next…. I’ve cared for my children. I’ve cared for my staff. I’ve cared for students, so there’s a lot of othering that has happened in my adult life. So the growth mindset perspective is I’m actually now going to focus on myself,” Lohmann said.

Lohmann is not entirely sure yet what her next chapter holds, but she remarked that she will certainly miss the Bowdoin community.

“I love this place. I really do,” Lohmann said. “I have felt incredibly privileged to have been at this place for as long as I have, the relationships that I’ve built with staff, with faculty, but most importantly with students.”


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