Though he may be taking over the reins of the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs, Tim Foster is ready to reach out beyond his department.
In laying out his plans and goals for the semester and beyond, Foster stressed the need to look across departments, especially on issues like diversity that affect all aspects of the College.
"In order for us to move to the next place, we're not going to be able to do things as the division of student affairs or the division of academic affairs," Foster said. "We're going to have to collaborate together."
Foster, who was previously the senior associate dean for student affairs, plans to apply this approach to the issues and challenges that face his division.
"We're not going to do something in isolation because it just won't build the traction that's necessary, and we need to do it in an intentional way," Foster said. "People are going to support what they help to create."
While Foster did not point to a No. 1 challenge, he did say that one of his major concerns was the "magnitude and trends" of alcohol use on campus, in particular the number of students who are binge drinking and drinking with the intention of getting drunk, as well as the percentage of students who are playing drinking games.
According to results from last spring's student health survey, 36.4 percent of students binge drink?consume five or more alcoholic beverages in a sitting?at least once or twice a week.
Foster also referenced the "growing alcohol divide," or the social life disparity between students who drink versus students who don't drink. He wants to examine how the College is "offering a vibrant social life that doesn't surround alcohol."
"We're not going to tackle this by saying, 'That's the Office of Residential Life's problem,'" he said. "We're going to have to bring together a group of people to really think about this."
Another aspect of campus social life that Foster believes needs examination is the College House System, including whether there's a role for residential affinity housing at Bowdoin.
"I think it's a really important part of the experience for some students, but not most students," he said.
"We're 10 years in and what does the next 10 years look like?" Foster asked. "We have this really vibrant academic life, a really vibrant social life, a really vibrant athletic life. What do we have that allows people to move between these arenas? How do we create opportunities for engagement and dialogue and how does the College House System fit in?"
On the academic front, Foster said the department will collaborate with the Office of Academic Affairs to strengthen the advising system as well as to support "under-prepared students" and "ensure that the curriculum is accessible to everyone."
"I think we need to do some analysis and look not just where people are choosing to major but different groups of students and where they're choosing to major," Foster said. "What are their intentions coming in and what do their majors end up being? Why do they change their plans along the way, and why do people end up succeeding and not succeeding?"
Foster is also concerned about the diversity of student organizations on campus.
"If you look at our largest student organizations on campus?arguably athletics, the outing club, the College House System, and community service?if you look at the participation in those enterprises, I'd say that it tends to be less diverse than the student body as a whole," he said.
"I just believe that your experiences tend to be defined by those around you," he said. "It's going to be a much more powerful experience if you have a full diversity of perspectives by race, gender, sexuality, and class."
During his interview with the Orient, Foster continually put forth questions that he wanted to examine in conjunction with students, faculty, and other officials. One additional question he hopes community members can answer revolves around striking what he calls the "culture of caution" that may keep students from speaking up and speaking out.
"How do you get students to see that some of their greatest teachers are their fellow students, and the only way we're going to learn from one another is we press one another?" he asked.