Flow of student life passes
through deans office
by Jenny Gerow
of Students Penny Rue
By Elizabeth Kiem
Office of the
Dean of Students, located on the top floor of Peabody Hall,
had a steady influx of students in late April. Mostly, they hoped
to come out with cash either treasurers of student groups
seeking reimbursement for a semesters worth of activities,
or individuals looking for a last-minute honor loan to tide them
over until graduation.
it is the needy student who doesnt come to the office who
is the daily concern of Dean of Students Penny Rue and her nine
assistant deans. Whether in reaction to an immediate campus crisis
or to difficulties common to U.Va. and American colleges generally,
the top dean for non-academic matters is committed to the emotional
support of the student body at large.
always trying to use the information we get from being in relationships
with students. We work with students in so many different ways,
we can bring that to bear on any situation and use our judgment
[to help the entire student body], said Rue, who has held
the post since July 1999.
Sept. 11, as the scope of the calamity that befell the nation
became clear, Rue and her colleagues resolved to do everything
possible to facilitate a candlelight vigil on the Lawn. Even considering
security concerns, Rue felt the pulse of the students and concluded
that a moment of solidarity and mourning was the most needed response.
an individual basis, Rue said, the most common problems confronting
students are alcohol, accidents and illnesses, and stress. These
problems are endemic on any campus, and the office works to prevent,
as well as respond to, their impact.
For serious interventions or response to crimes, campus disturbances,
assaults or natural disasters, there is a dean on 24-hour call.
But for many in the office, every day is an on-call day.
by Jenny Gerow
(fourth from left) participates in a leadership-building exercise
with students who are orientation leaders at U.Va. this summer.
of us are here because we really care about students. And students
dont operate on our clock at all, said intern Kelli
Palmer. She works in the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life,
created as part of the Dean of Students office less than
a year ago.
branches in Peabody Hall, Newcomb Hall, Residence Life Office,
Center for Alcohol and Substance Education, and the Office of
Orientation, the ODOS offers services and advice that enhance
students intellectual, social and ethical development.
calls these services the work that we go at, as opposed
to the work that comes at us.
stuff that we go at really falls into the notion of community
creation. My hope is that every student at this University is
able to find a niche, so that theyre able to own and feel
that this is their university, she said.
there are more than 400 student groups on campus, Rue and her
associates are careful not to step on toes as they attempt to
integrate and coalesce various interest groups.
do a lot of we support you kind of events, said
assistant dean Ajay Nair. As the youngest and only Asian-American
dean, Nair finds many groups and individuals seek him out personally.
want us to be a part of it, and we want to embrace it. But we
have to be careful, he said of not commandeering student
fact, Rue says U.Va.s tradition of allowing student groups
broad authority to conduct themselves autonomously is a blessing
for her office. We see ourselves as colleagues to students
who are trying to get things done.
programs focus on leadership development, peer mentoring and community
service. Shamim Sisson, senior associate dean of students, initiated
the Womens Leadership Development Program, one of the oldest
of the ODOS programs. While Sisson delegated the operations of
the group to a colleague not long ago, the group chose to formally
memorialize her work by naming the final dinner of the academic
year in her honor.
After 14 years at ODOS, Sisson has grown attuned to the rhyth
of this intensely student-oriented office as it passes through
the academic year.
Often its this period at the end of the semester,
even when you go into exams and you think it would be quieter
because you dont have so much partying
finished her thought, saying you have, instead, tension
and roommates having their fill. Sisson nodded knowingly.
Its a roller-coaster, she said.
for every sudden crisis, said Tabitha Gray, assistant dean for
residence life, there is a welcome one. She recalled a student
who recently dropped by her office in search of relationship advice.
While matters of the heart are not specifically in her jurisdiction,
Gray was touched that the student had come to her on the advice
of another student.
a student refers another student to you because of the way you
worked with that student, that always makes me feel really good.