The 411 on the Job of the Dean of Students

Now that the search process for the new Dean of Students is wrapping up, we should have someone new in the position shortly, next semester at the latest. Vice President of Student Life Dr. Karnell McConnell-Black states that he’d like to have someone start by July 1. The search committee is already very close to accomplishing that goal, as they have gotten it down to three finalists. But what will they be doing? The Dean of Students job is important for the college but hard to differentiate on the outside from other jobs within the Student Life Office, especially the Vice President for Student Life. This is why it is essential to understand what the job is and how these two jobs are separate so that we can better understand what to look for in our new dean of students.  

Both the Dean of Students and the Vice President for Student Life deal heavily in the student life of the Reed population. As McConnell-Black puts it, “My role at the college is one that is centered around providing strategy and direction and guidance for the overall functions of student life.” The dean is more entrenched in the daily life of the students, a large part of which is student engagement, academics, and crisis management: “their primary role is to actually be the interface as it relates to crisis management, and also the interface as it relates to working day to day with students and student leaders in particular.” The Dean of Student deals with the daily life of the students, and in larger matters is the bridge between the students and the Vice President of Student Life to figure out what long-term structures the students could benefit from.

Because the Dean of Students needs to work directly with the Reed community so much, they need to be “a highly visible student advocate, and a member of the campus community” according to McConnell-Black. In doing so, communication is a huge part of their job. The new Dean of Students will need to engage with the students and promote their interests to the various offices of Reed College, such as Disability and Accessibility Resources, Office of Academic Support, and International Student Services. The new dean will be expected to navigate these offices and encourage collaboration between the students and the offices so that the students have the resources they need to succeed. Hopefully, the new dean is up for the challenge.

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