Brown discussed his vision for managing his time as the College’s interim dean, including prioritizing student well-being and communication with students.
Scott Brown was appointed interim dean on August 18 and will remain so until the College finds a permanent replacement. Source: Courtesy of Scott Brown
Scott Brown was appointed interim dean on August 18 and will remain so until the College finds a permanent replacement.
Source: Courtesy of Scott Brown
Acting Dean of College Scott Brown returned to the College after many years of administrative work at other colleges and universities – before taking positions at Colgate University, Wooster College and the University of Northern Arizona, he was Area Director in the Dartmouth Residential Life Office for three years in the early 1990s. Brown’s appointment as Acting Dean follows that of sociology professor Kathryn Lively sudden resignation of the role, which took place on June 30 but was not announced until July 19. Dartmouth sat down with Brown to discuss his goals for the position, new college initiatives and the start of the fall term.
You are coming back to Dartmouth after years of working at other colleges and universities. What aspects of the campus have changed since you left and which have remained the same? How will these similarities and differences inform your work during your tenure as Interim Dean?
SB: I hoped to have the opportunity to return to Dartmouth. I started my career here almost 30 years ago. It is an extraordinary place. I was really drawn to the campus and the students, faculty and staff that support them, and I was delighted to find that this spirit that defined the place was completely timeless. My ability to work with students and think about giving you the most personal and powerful experience possible remains the same, and working with great staff to make it happen, who are incredibly talented and committed and very, very hardworking. .
The campus has changed a lot since I’ve been here. I think the opportunities for undergraduates have been exponentially greater, and I think the resources to support these truly powerful and transformative experiences have increased.
My father-in-law, Professor of Chemistry David Lemal, taught at Dartmouth for 50 years, and I have always been struck by him and all of his fellow faculty members – incredible world-class academics with a very deep commitment to l undergraduate education, and undergraduates, period. It’s something that has been the same and I see that it has amplified in more contexts and more opportunities of all the different types of centers and students leaving the campus. But I was also really delighted to see this deep investment by the students in campus life and then to be able to work in partnership with them to make it the best it can be. So good things have proliferated since I’ve been here, but what I think makes this place special has remained, much to my delight.
You enter this role right after completing an Acting Dean position at Northern Arizona University, and you have also previously worked on an interim basis at Colgate University. How do you approach an interim administrator role differently from a more permanent role, and how will this affect College policy over the next two years?
SB: My general approach, whatever the position, when I enter a new community is to be at the same time anthropologist, historian and cartographer, to know the culture, the history and the terrain of a community. I think it’s extremely important to really understand and respect the culture and the dynamics that are at play, and how that is an expression of the values of the institution. Then really trying to get a feel for what the institution looks like best, and getting a shared vision of what it looks like with all the major stakeholders and understanding what is at stake for the individual stakeholders. Then, trying to align the work and supporting the staff in the division to be able to provide the students with a great experience and to keep it moving forward on the basis of this shared vision.
That I have been acting dean and been asked to help support the staff, whether it is to advance the work of diversity, equity and inclusion, whether it is really in the process of think about it, are we organized in a way to help do this work the best we can – it’s really driven by the needs of the institution at this precise moment. In this sense, an interim is not very different from a permanent position, because I think that there are the same important questions to ask, that the community is asking. This gives indications on the best way forward.
Overall, what do you hope to accomplish as Acting Dean over the next two years? Are there specific issues you plan to focus on?
SB: First and foremost, putting students at the center and doing everything possible to help preserve the best possible experience in Dartmouth, while understanding that it will be vibrant and trying to maintain the health and safety of the community. Those two goals will always be in play. In the very short term, we want to get the mandate going and make sure people have the support they need. Also supporting the staff, who have done an incredibly heroic job of helping center students and dealing with a larger context that changes daily. We have a very talented, committed and hardworking staff. For example, the entire first year Trips program was a good example of trying to preserve the best parts of the Trips experience and working with student leaders and using our best information on how best to preserve this in order to preserve security.
Hopefully, maybe on the other side of the Delta variant of COVID-19, things stabilize so that our student body can truly enjoy a full and normal experience in Dartmouth. I feel very, very bad that our students had to endure so much because of this. People literally work 18 hours a day to find ways to preserve the student experience, knowing that there are things going on that we just need to try to answer and keep our north very clear.
As we speak of safety, Dartmouth’s mental health infrastructure has become a controversial issue, particularly during the pandemic. How will you work to resolve issues with Dartmouth Mental Health Support Systems that students and Dartmouth reported?
SB: I think mental health and well-being are of paramount importance for the whole institution. There is a lot of work that goes into providing additional staff and creating an infrastructure to make sure that if someone has a concern they go to a central location so that we can support them very quickly. It’s also about leveraging the incredible relationships that exist at Dartmouth and equipping people who have relationships with students who don’t necessarily need clinical intervention, but who might need support. Whether you are in your home community, an athlete, or part of your student organization, we create this community of care so that it is a generally supportive environment and that we can be agile and responsive in responding to challenges. really important needs of some of our students.
Being a Dartmouth student is really tough, period. It’s a very rigorous academic experience – the students demand a lot of themselves, and we have very, very successful students. The question we need to think about as a community is what are we doing to put students in the positions where they will be most successful and where they will have that support to manage what is a very dynamic time, and then to make sure that we anticipate and support the various issues that may arise so that students can complete their experience at Dartmouth.
Over the past year and a half, many students have expressed frustration with the difficulty in reaching out to administrators. How will you facilitate communication between students and your office, and how will this communication affect your work as Acting Dean?
SB: I believe that all students should feel that the surrounding community of faculty and staff are there to support the student experience, and as a dean, I will do everything in my power to anchor the contribution of students in the decisions and processes. I will personally hold office hours and make myself available to students who would like to come and see me. I am very responsive to emails. If anyone wants to spend time with me, I will prioritize these kinds of meetings to the best of my ability. I will also be a very visible person – you will see me as the person with a baseball cap and tie walking around campus, and I will invite people to come and say hello to me. I will be visiting student organizations and activities. It is important that students know who their dean is and that it is someone with whom they feel they have a personal relationship. I really encourage students to come visit me, contact me and, if they see me on campus, introduce themselves, as they will see me often.
All students, faculty and staff are subject to a set of COVID-19 campus guidelines that will be reviewed the week of September 20. While reviewing these guidelines, how will the administration balance the overall impact on student well-being with the need to prevent the spread of COVID-19?
SB: I think the most important thing to do in Dartmouth is to really think about what we can do to preserve the best possible experience, but also to be considerate and caring for members of my community – my classmates, my roommates. – in terms of health and safety. We hope this is temporary, and we are using all of our power to manage these dual goals of preserving as normal as possible, but knowing that we have been guided by science and our local governments and what the data is on the ground, and j ‘hope that when we reconsider we will be in a position that may allow us to move closer to the more normal side.
Is there something you would like to tell the students as we begin the fall term?
SB: We are so glad you are here. We hope so much that we can give you the best experience possible in Dartmouth and we feel bad that you had to deal with such a difficult college experience, and we are doing all we can to protect you and give you the best possible experience. possibly can. Every person here – and I mean, every person – is stubbornly committed to it, because it puts students at the center of all of our work. I feel very lucky to work with such an incredibly and explicitly committed community to students, and working with students is really special. I’m so excited to be back, to be a part of it, and I hope I can meet everyone.