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Beloit creates new Senior Associate Dean of Students position

Image by Beloit College

Image by Beloit College

The College’s administration has a new member of its team: Ryan Bouchard was hired at the beginning of this year to fill the new position of Senior Associate Dean of Students. Klawitter and President Scott Bierman created the new position in May after “priorities emerged” to “put a lot more emphasis on inclusivity and on student success,” Klawitter said. Bouchard reports directly to Dean of Students Christina Klawitter, whose focus is “more broad,” including oversight of Residential Life, Health and Wellness Center, C-Haus, Inclusive Living and Learning, athletics and related areas. Bouchard will be “focused on the area of student success and support,” and in particular “persistence,” as Klawitter describes. His first projects will involve leading a self-study of disability services and reconfiguring the sexual assault judicial process.

After advertising the position in May, Bouchard was offered the job in August, and started working in mid-September, in an office on the second floor of Pearsons. Klawitter made the final decision to hire him after consulting with a five-member search committee consisting of  faculty, staff and a student. He was able to meet with several students at the very beginning of the school year.

Bouchard received his Bachelor’s degree from University of St. Thomas in History, his Masters in Higher Education and Higher Education Administration from Indiana University, and most recently completed a doctorate in Educational Leadership in 2014 from Edgewood College. He has worked full-time at higher education institutions for more than sixteen years, and half of that experience came from several roles in residential life at UW-Madison.

He didn’t have to move far, having last worked at Edgewood College, a private liberal arts college in Madison, Wis., where he served as Associate Dean of Students, Assistant Vice President for Student Development and Interim Vice President for Student Development. As for why he decided to come here, “I was ready for a new challenge and had fallen for the collegial, liberal arts institutional type, where the work is student-centered.”

With this new position, Klawitter also shifted around some organization within the administration. The Office for Inclusive Living and Learning was reorganized and transferred to the third floor of Pearsons, for instance. With Bouchard taking on more responsibilities, Klawitter has more time to focus on other projects, such as developing the Powerhouse with different stakeholders in mind.

Prior to his position, Director of Learning Enrichment and Disabilities Services and Assistant Dean of Students Joy de Leon reported to Associate Dean of Students Teresa Leopold. Now they both report to Bouchard, who is leading a task-force of three faculty members, four staff and three students to assess disability services and to make recommendations on new approaches. Rather than a longer-term committee, the short-term task force is designed to address specific questions. These questions, Bouchard said, include “how are students with disabilities experiencing Beloit College? Is Beloit College effectively preparing and equipping students with disabilities? And are we meeting current demand and need for a changing demographic?”

In addition, he will “create a new process for appealing sexual assault and misconduct decisions,” as Klawitter described. “My expertise in Title IX will also be put to good use in specifically leading efforts to strengthen our compliance and judicial processes around sexual misconduct and relationship violence cases,” he said, adding “I have worked extremely hard on issues of sexual assault awareness, strengthening judicial processes to make them more transparent and equitable, and overall, being an advocate that all students feel safe and included. If students don’t feel safe and included, we can’t expect them to learn.”

In the current system, if a student alleges sexual assault against another, Director of Residential Life John Winkellman and Assistant Director of Residential Life Sarah Coyer act as lead investigators and reach a decision. “If either party wants to appeal that decision, they have the right to do that. Right now, they appeal to the judicial board, which is students, faculty and staff. We’ve been given very clear guidance from the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights that having students on this board is not good practice. In addition, all colleges including ours have been given a directive to have only highly trained employees investigating and making decisions about sexual assault,” Klawitter said.

Already only a few months in his new position, Bouchard called Beloit a “special place,” taken by the student involvement. “I love the activism of the students, and I am extremely impressed with the work ethic and commitment to the college my new colleagues model every day,” he said. “Beloit College definitely walks the walks, so to speak, when it comes to its liberal arts mission. That hasn’t always been my experience in the past.”

He encourages students to come introduce themselves and is open to hearing any ideas about improving campus. “A job can be made or broken by the people. Again, the people of Beloit College have made a wonderful impression on me,” he said. “It is the partnership and shared leadership with the students and colleagues on advancing the student experience that I have enjoyed the most so far. This place is honest too. I like that.”

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