Posted on Monday, August 20, 2012
Deans Offices help students transition from high school to college
When Felipe Estefan '08 arrived in Geneva to start his first year at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, it marked his first visit to campus. Four years later when he graduated, Estefan gave the Hobart student senior address at Commencement.
Between his arrival and graduation, Estefan became an active member of the HWS and Geneva communities. He volunteered often, was involved in the International Student Association, served as a Writing Colleague and Resident Assistant, and studied abroad at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom.
Despite his many successes at HWS, Estefan's transition from high school to college was not always easy. "It took me some time to adjust to college life," he says. "The exceptional network of people at the Colleges facilitated my transition and proved very helpful. There is a strong sense of community at HWS and so many people to make sure that students are supported in a variety of capacities."
Estefan used that support to find a home at HWS and to build a plan for the future. After graduation, he received his masters in international relations from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and a masters in public relations from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communication, both at Syracuse University. He is now working at the World Bank and just returned from filming a documentary in Africa.
"Of all the support networks available to me, I found my interactions with the Deans to be especially important," Estefan says.
At Hobart and William Smith, students have the benefit of two Deans' Offices - one for Hobart and one for William Smith. Each office is led by a longtime member of the HWS faculty. Hobart Dean Eugen Baer P'95, P'97, HON '07, a professor of philosophy, joined the Colleges in 1971. William Smith Dean Susanne McNally, a professor of history, came to HWS in 1972.
In addition to Baer and McNally, each office has two other deans, including two deans dedicated entirely to supporting students in their first year. The Classes of 2016 will be welcomed by William Smith First Year Dean Lisa Kaenzig and Hobart First Year Dean David Mapstone '93. Kaenzig and Mapstone are entering their 10th year as the deans for incoming first year students. Hobart Associate Dean Chip Capraro and William Smith Associate Dean Valerie Gunter support students as they navigate their sophomore and junior years and work with transfer students.
"Many students need guidance in adjusting to the significant academic and social transition from high school to college," says Kaenzig. "At Hobart and William Smith, we are committed to working individually with each student to help him or her move forward into this new world of college with increasing self-confidence while building the essential life skills that promote success."
Kaenzig and Mapstone understand that, "this transition is a critical time in a young person's life," says Mapstone. "We try to balance the level of support for students with allowing them to take some chances and learn from their experiences. It's important that students know how to be actively involved in accessing the support networks on campus."
Students can contact the Deans' offices to set up an appointment at any time during their four years. "We see students 360 degrees - in academic and social and other ways," says McNally. "We talk with them about what courses they are interested in taking and what they're passionate about."
"The Deans' offices should be viewed as a first stop for students if any problem should arise," adds Baer. "Our office can connect students to a particular support system. We find that the team approach is the best way to help students."
Each Dean draws upon his or her unique and varied experiences to assist students, who tend to be their biggest advocates.
"Talking to Dean Mapstone feels more like talking to a cool, older brother. He knows the ins and outs of campus in a way that only a former student would," says Josh Cerf '12.
Kaylyn O'Brien '12 reflects that with her dual role as a professor, Dean McNally is "quite knowledgeable about the inner workings of HWS and is a valuable resource for anyone who seeks her guidance."
Sarah Smith '12 explains that "what Dean Gunter brings to HWS is an educational view that empowers students to succeed."
Sarah Marlow '12 adds that "even though Dean Baer speaks 13 languages, was on the Swiss Olympic ski team and tutored Swiss Guards at the Vatican, he is one of the most humble and genuine people you will meet."
Along with individual advising interactions, students often build meaningful relationships with the Deans inside the classroom and out in the community. "Dean Capraro was my first year adviser and taught my first year seminar on rock music and American masculinity," says Jacqueline Paolino '14. "Not only did he teach a fascinating class, but he was a great resource throughout my first year."
Caroline Spruill '12 says, "by the end of the first week of school, Dean Kaenzig will know every new William Smith student by name and will call out to you from across the street to see how your family is doing and how your classes are going."
The HWS Deans' offices also play a role in facilitating communication with parents.
"Parents too should be a part of our efforts because we all have the same goal: to help your child succeed," Baer says.
Just like students, parents can reach out to the Deans with questions. The Deans work closely with students and parents in a collaborative way to ensure the success of every student.
"One piece of advice I give to parents is to encourage their students to really be here," says McNally. "The more students are actually here, noticing something they find intriguing, taking in their surroundings, the more they will thrive," she says, adding, "always with the caveat that if there's ever an issue or a question, we are right here."