This Friday, Nov. 9, marks Dean of Students Adriana di Bartolo’s final day at Vassar. In an emailed statement sent to the student body on Oct. 29, Interim Dean of the College Carlos Alamo-Pastrana announced that di Bartolo had accepted a position as Associate Dean of Students at Scripps College, one of the five colleges that comprise the Claremont College Consortium in California.
Di Bartolo’s duties as Associate Dean of Students will include supervising residential life, student conduct and case management, such as assisting students in times of crisis. In this role, di Bartolo will report to and work closely with Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Charlotte H. Johnson, whom di Bartolo describes as their mentor.
They further noted their enthusiasm about working at a women’s college: “The fact that we are still questioning women’s right to choose and women in leadership roles…we can’t rest on our laurels…to be part of the project of women’s leadership at a women’s college for me really speaks to the work I’m excited to do.”
Di Bartolo’s move to Scripps is somewhat of a homecoming, since they previously worked as Associate Dean of Students for Personal Success and Wellness at Pomona College, another college in the Claremont Colleges Consortium. Prior to this position, they were the founding director of LGBTQ services for all of the Claremont Colleges. In addition, di Bartolo looks forward to living closer to family, especially now that they and their partner have a five-month-old son, Jack.
Highlights of di Bartolo’s tenure at Vassar include the students and faculty with whom they worked. They noted that “[Vassar students] are all wickedly brilliant and perfectionistic” and discussed their passion for mitigating the stress associated with perfectionism: “You cannot achieve [perfectionism], and it will end up hurting you in the long run. But what I love about the work that I’ve been able to do with students is that willingness to hear that message.”
As for Vassar faculty with whom they have worked closely, di Bartolo reflected, “Even on the scariest of days where [we were] dealing with a really intense crisis, I was surrounded by experts all the time…it’s amazing to have such a skilled team of people.” Indeed, maintaining composure and control during challenging times proved to be the most valuable skill that di Bartolo gained from their time at Vassar: “[I learned] how to be a leader in difficult situations…how to be the calming, still voice—not just for my staff but for students.” Professor of Education and Dean of the College Emeritus Christopher Roellke praised di Bartolo’s adeptness at maintaining their cool under pressure, stating in an email, “I personally appreciated Adriana’s calm and steady hand during student crises.”
Reflecting on their work at Vassar, di Bartolo feels most proud of their office’s success in diminishing potentially dangerous aspects of Vassar’s drinking culture. In particular, di Bartolo is pleased with the activities of the Alcohol Task Force, a decline in medical transports at large drinking events and the educational efforts by Health Promotion and Education and Residential Life to promote safe substance use. Di Bartolo explained, “I never thought we should ever take away alcohol … but we [should] have conversations about how to do it safely. And as an educational institution, we always need to be talking about learning.”
In an emailed interview, Alamo-Pastrana praised di Bartolo for contributing to Health and Wellness expertise on campus: “We have benefited from many of the policies and practices they implemented to support our students.”
Indeed, students and faculty alike appreciate both di Bartolo’s work for the office and their warmth, compassion, energy and humor. In an email, an Assistant to the Dean of Students Jens Astrup ’22 reflected, “[They make] the office a connecting, collaborative work space.” Similarly, Dean of Students Office Assistant Jonayed Ahmed ’20 affirmed via email that “Dean di Bartolo is a really easy person to talk to and one of the nicest people I know.” According to Ahmed, “They truly try to get to know each person … There was never a single dull day…with Dean di Bartolo.”
Members of the Vassar administration echoed students’ positive sentiments about the dean. In an email, Director of the Psychological Services Wendy Anne Freedman praised di Bartolo, stating, “[They have a] thorough knowledge of best practices in student affairs [and have been] committed to building trust and did so with [their] transparency, directness, and kindness.” Similarly, Alamo-Pastrana asserted, “I especially enjoyed the excitement and cheerfulness that they brought to their position and to the people with whom they worked,” and Dean Roellke, who appreciates di Bartolo’s firm grasp of student life, reflected “[Their] laugh is also incredibly contagious and I will miss that a great deal!”
Vassar will immediately begin a nationwide search for di Bartolo’s replacement. Alamo-Pastrana specified the qualities that the College plans to seek: “The candidate [should] be student-centered and a skilled administrator in the areas of college residential life and wellness … it is incredibly important to us that the person who we hire comes to these administrative functions with the ability to see them through our students’ eyes.” The Interim Dean continued, “We are working on a teaming model within the Dean of the College Division to ensure students continue to receive the level of support that they need…until the new dean is hired.”
As they prepare to depart for Scripps this Friday, di Bartolo hopes that Vassar students will abandon some of their perfectionistic tendencies: “Every student should buy Brené Brown’s book, ‘Gifts of Imperfection,’ and read it and underline it…because the guilt and shame of perfectionism is too [great] of a weight for any of you to carry.” As their final piece of wisdom to the undergraduates on whose behalf they worked for over two years, di Bartolo urged students, “Give yourself grace and space to feel your emotions and be present, and know that you can trust every moment that happens. I promise you can trust every moment.”