Dean Of Students Office Experiences Staff Changes
By Brianda Reyes '14, Contributing Writer
At the end of last year, when Dean Allen Hart switched positions from Dean of New Students to Dean of Students, he had to find someone to fill in his shoes. He chose chemistry professor Patricia O’Hara.

The Dean of New Students is in charge of the entering class and all transfer students, with responsibilities including the planning of Orientation Week and assigning college advisors.

O’Hara continues to teach chemistry, although only half-time, and is also still running her lab. Balancing her position as Dean and her job as chemistry professor has not been easy, but early preparation and support from her co-workers has helped.

“I dove right into the job this past summer,” said O’Hara. “My colleagues here in the Dean’s Office offer constant advice and support, and we work really well together as a team.”

O’Hara will teach a class in the new Biochemistry and Biophysics major in the spring semester. Teaching a new course while fielding the duties that come with being the Dean of New Students will test her ability to balance both jobs. However, the help she receives from her newly-hired post-doc, Dr. Jim Hebda from Yale University should ease some of her stress.

“Without him, it would be impossible for me to keep up with my teaching and research,” said O’Hara.

After being a professor for 27 years, teaching and leading the research of many students, O’Hara felt that she knew only one side of her students. Her new job as Dean of New Students allows her to get to know another side. She has found, however, that there are a few drawbacks to her new position.

“The disadvantages are that I am learning something new every day, and therefore, I don’t have my experience base to draw on,” she said.

With two offices, a new Blackberry and a 1,000 percent increase of emails and phone calls, she misses the “more controlled moments” she enjoyed when she was only a professor.

Carolyn Bassett is also taking on a new title this year. Previously the Associate Dean and Associate Director, Health Professions Advisor and Dean on Call she is now the Associate Dean of Students, Class Dean for the Class or 2011, and International Student Advisor.

Replacing Frances Tuleja, who moved to the Admissions office, as the new International Student Advisor, Bassett is in charge of providing resources and information for international students so that they may travel and adjust to Amherst. She also ensures that their legal paperwork is accurate and deals with their visa issuance, travel and work options and the federal government, making sure that students studying on an F-1 visa do not encounter any problems.

Relying on administrative assistants and other staff members has helped Bassett adjust to her new job. Because she knew most of the staff already, Bassett is able to enjoy her job more than she would if she did not have anyone to support her.

“International student advising gives me opportunities to learn about different cultures regularly, and also allows me to see the Amherst and American experiences through new lenses repeatedly,” said Bassett.

Bassett has become very close with students and young alumni applying to medical schools. She misses them, but continues to keep in touch. Bassett has also realized that her new job comes with other problems.

“Because Amherst has atypically high expectations of its students and faculty, we need a particularly robust administration to maintain an infrastructure that can turn possibilities into realities,” said Bassett.

Although Bassett says that it is too soon to think of changes that need to be made, she acknowledges that the increased number of international students and in the amount of countries from which they come require changes in the office. More programs must be created to recognition the heterogeneity of Amherst’s international students.

Bassett, like O’Hara, enjoys working with students as Class Dean and seeing them grow both as students and as people. She would like students to know that deans are available for any help they might need.

“We advocate for and support students, hold students accountable for their choices, promote civility within a broader culture that doesn’t always, interpret the context of academia for students, and help them sort through trouble with friends, family or course work,” said Bassett.

Issue 06, Submitted 2010-10-20 02:48:58