Dean's office dramatically changes: now located in the heart of student hangouts
Over the summer, the Dean’s Office swapped locations with the admissions office. Now, the location change challenges its members to appear approachable, yielding new dynamics and looming anxieties.
“I love not being down in the basement and not seeing many people;” says Sarah Koshi, this year’s Director of Community Education. “It’s nice to feel present in the epicenter of the student’s ‘hangout’ space.” The new Dean’s Office, located in the southeast corner of upstairs Rosen, has only helped the office to be more connected with students—which is exactly what they intend to do: “We want you guys to be able to feel like you can come in and hang out,” Koshi said. “You’re welcome here and we want to partner with you and talk to you about what is and what’s not working because if we don’t know, we can’t help out.”
Director of Residential Life Lucy Stockdale explains how important the first impression is — which is why the front room in the dean’s area looks the way it does: “I think it feels a little less daunting to come into the Dean of Students office when there’s a bowl of candy and some nice couches. I hope students feel comfortable coming into this space because we wanted it to feel like that. It’s not this big, scary dean of students’ office, but it’s a place where we’re here to support you all.” Stockdale believes the new office sets a tone: “The biggest thing right now is establishing consistency with expectations, a communal environment where everyone feels supported and trusted, and starting on a clear and right foot this year in terms of residential life; not just the expectation around how to live together, but also the ways in which we’re enjoying one another’s company and engaging with each other.”
Co-Director of Equity and Inclusion and English teacher Jacob Rivers explains that the new two-way relationship between the office and the students can generate anxiety: “Because of how far-reaching our office is and how much things fall under our view, I’m always worried that if we’re not clear about what success looks for us and what our goals are, then ultimately we will get to the end of the year and see the long list of things we could’ve done, but didn’t do.”
On the other end of the surprising swap comes a whole new environment and changed dynamics within the actual office: “What’s cool about this place is since it’s open, we’re able to reach out to each other with questions and lean on each other in a way that feels more informal compared to writing an email,” says Stockdale. She emphasizes the importance of the open layout, rather than being confined to separate offices: “Here, if we’re working on something, we can just call over and ask a question. This space is really collaborative, where you can work together in ways that feel really genuine and authentic.”
Stockdale, Koshi, Shanae Vaifanua-Pace, and Alyssa Clark all work on the left side of the office with the open format Stockdale previously mentioned. Marissa Trujillo manages the front desk that features a candy jar that has increasingly grown in popularity. Dean of Students Philip Koshi, Co-DEI director Isabel Aguirre, and Rivers all have private offices in the back.
By having a revamped office, the staff has embraced more demanding responsibilities while still letting their unique characteristics shine. A new face on campus, Trujillo is the main point of contact for attendance and REACH passes in addition to being the receptionist for the dean’s office. Trujillo says, “As of right now, I’m trying to get to know students because I’m fairly new on campus. I’m trying to allow them to feel comfortable to ask questions; I know that alone is very hard so I have a little candy jar that everyone’s very happy about.”
Aguirre seeks to ensure that as the co-Director of Equity and Inclusion with Rivers, she is establishing a close relationship with each student she guides: “My work is to give them lots of options for how they want to vent, share, and connect.” She reiterates, “I want to make sure that I’m protecting their agency, their vision, and that I’m not trampling all over it as an adult.” She says that this is a challenging task, acknowledging, “This work is really, really hard…in some cases you feel like you’re not doing enough for them so you’re letting down the people who really believe in your work because the progress isn’t happening at the pace they want to see. And on the flip side of it, because of the world that we live in, people make inclusion, joy, and academic excellence a political thing…when really what we’re talking about is human connection.”
As the Dean of Students, Phillip Koshi makes sure that everything is running smoothly and that all of the departments are working effectively. He believes the term “dean” is misleading: “People sometimes think of the dean of students as the ‘discipline’ guy. I don’t see it so narrowly and that’s the idea of this office: let’s expand on what that idea is.” He takes a lot of pride in seeking to answer the questions that everyone thinks to themselves: “It’s a lot of problem-solving, all with the goal of: Is the student experience positive? Are they happy? Are they healthy? Does everyone feel like they belong here?” He concludes, “I think I connect well with people. I think I communicate pretty effectively. I’m organized. I feel like people can come up to me; I want to continue to do that. That approachability for my students to come to me and express their concerns helps me ‘do the good work’ in other places.”
The picture is clear: The Dean’s Office is a welcoming, inclusive, and approachable place where the students are supported by trusted adults who care and are here to help. However, Aguirre knows that as a school, we have to keep a growth mindset: “There’s so many good things about this campus, but we got work to do.”