New Dean appointees envision term goals

Courtesy of Roman Iwasiwka/Vassar College.

In the past month, Vassar has appointed three new Deans. The following is a series of interviews intended to elucidate the respective goals and new responsibilities of each. Each interview has been edited for grammaticality and length.

DEAN OF THE COLLEGE

Associate Professor of Sociology Carlos Alamo-Pastrana began his first term as Dean of the College on March 1. According to the 2018-19 Dean Mission Statement, “The Dean of the College division educates and supports students in their intellectual, social, ethical and emotional development.” The following interview was conducted via email.

The Miscellany News: What accomplishments in your role as interim dean are you most proud of?

Alamo-Pastrana: I am incredibly pleased with the amount of outreach I did to help begin to cultivate a positive experience between my office and students. I accomplished this using my open-door policy, extended office hours, meeting with various VSA organizations, and through my pop-up lunches … These practices were an essential first step, and I look forward to continuing to engage with and listening to students at every opportunity…

The Misc: Do you have any long term goals or visions for Vassar College?

Alamo-Pastrana: I’m interested in the development of a strategy around mental health and wellness. The scope of this challenge requires some significant structural approaches that require long-term planning. I want to do this through the use of an inclusive process that involves students, faculty, and administrators thinking about this challenge holistically.

The Misc: What do you think the biggest problem at Vassar is right now?

Alamo-Pastrana: Getting large groups to trust each other is difficult work. President Bradley has shown some incredible leadership in this regard and has modeled how to do this kind of work at various levels. But she has also done a fantastic job in surrounding herself with a leadership team that values the importance of relationship building with faculty, students, and staff … Sometimes this includes having disagreements or difficult conversations together and sometimes not. But what these conversations all have in common is a deep level of respect, seriousness, and empathy that we have for the concerns and ideas students are bringing forward.

The Misc: Is there anything else you would like students to know about you?

Alamo-Pastrana: There’s a rumor trending on the interwebs that I make the world’s most delicious arroz con pollo. I can neither confirm nor deny these rumors. All I can say is that I wouldn’t turn down an invite to Dean Alamo’s house for a home-cooked meal. ;)

DEAN OF STUDIES

Professor of Psychological Science Debra Zeifman will begin her first term as Dean of Studies on July 1. According to the 2018-19 Dean Mission Statement, “The Dean of Studies is responsible for the implementation of educational policies as they relate to students.” The follow interview was conducted via email.

The Misc: What accomplishments in your time at Vassar are you most proud of ? Zeifman: My colleagues and I introduced a senior thesis course in Psychology that brings together groups of seniors to work with a faculty mentor on a yearlong research project. Several thesis projects have resulted in presentations at scientific meetings and published articles. I am proud of what students achieve in that course, and am excited to see the course grow.

The Misc: Do you have any long-term goals or visions for Vassar College?

Zeifman: I’d like us to think about ways we can help students not only succeed academically, but also thrive in college. I believe academic achievement and personal wellbeing are interconnected. I’d like to see the class advisors have more time to establish relationships with students before they face obstacles so that they are better positioned to help when problems arise.

The Misc: How do you interpret the role of your position at Vassar?

Zeifman: I believe the Dean of Studies should facilitate students’ academic growth and achievement, help students develop effective study skills and life-long habits of mind, and provide students with the tools and resources they need to cope with, and overcome, the challenges they encounter along the way

The Misc: What do you think is the biggest problem at Vassar is right now?

Zeifman: Students at Vassar are more stressed than when I first arrived, and they are certainly more stressed than when I was in college […] I’d like to find ways to help students manage their stress and cultivate joy and satisfaction in the learning process.

The Misc: Is there anything else you would like students to know about you?

Zeifman: I came to Vassar straight out of graduate school and have been here for over twenty years. I’ve learned that I am happiest when I am surrounded by students. I’d really like students to know that my door is open, and I am listening. I am eager to hear what students have to say.

DEAN OF THE FACULTY

Professor of Sociology William “Bill” Hoynes will begin his first term as Dean of the Faculty on August 1. According to the 2018-19 Dean Mission Statement, “The Dean of the Faculty is the chief academic officer of the college and is charged with general supervision over the departments of instruction.”

The Misc: What accomplishments in your time at Vassar are you most proud of? Hoynes: The establishment of the Media Studies Program, which involved working with a group of colleagues from various departments. We had a five-year monthly faculty seminar that led to the development of a curriculum and the founding of the program in 2004. Starting the Media Studies Program was a great opportunity for me to broaden my own intellectual understandings and to build a program that provides the opportunity for students interested in media to participate in a rich multidisciplinary course of study.

The Misc: Do you have any long-term goals or visions for Vassar College?

Hoynes: I’ve been involved with EPI (Engaged Pluralism Initiative), serving as chair of the Global Campus Working Group. It’s important that we continue to think about what it means to be a global campus and to have a global curriculum. We need to take seriously the multi-directional and multilingual flow of knowledge and experience that challenges us all to broaden how we think about from where and from whom we can learn.

The Misc: What, in your view, is the mission of the Dean of the Faculty?

Hoynes: In my view, [it] is to be an advocate for faculty. As I start this summer in that role, I will certainly be speaking to and listening to faculty to understand their concerns and try to provide resources and support so that our really wonderful world-class professors can do their jobs of providing educational opportunities for students and do that work in a way that helps all of us feel supported and intellectually energized.

The Misc: What is one of the concerns that the faculty is facing right now?

Hoynes: I prefer to think of our collective challenges. One…that I think the faculty faces now is how to effectively manage curricular change … Navigating this change that is happening both on a department and program level and also on an individual level is something that we need to be talking about, sharing ideas and experiences, and supporting experimentation and innovation.

Debra Zeifman, Professor of Psychological Science, March 2019 Photo Credit: Roman Iwasiwka/Vassar College.
Courtesy of Karl Rabe/Vassar College.

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