Following Dean for the Class of 2022 Renee Johnson-Thornton’s departure from the University in late November, the search committee has narrowed down the candidates for the class dean position to three finalists. As the committee deliberates, Dean for the Class of 2024 David Phillips has taken on the interim coverage for students with last names starting with A through Le, Dean for the Class of 2021 Tanesha Leathers for last names Li through Ro, and Dean of Academic Advancement Laura Patey for last names Ru through Z. Dean for the Class of 2023 Jennifer Wood is responsible for incoming junior transfer students in the interim.
Class deans are primarily responsible for helping students fulfill educational goals and graduation requirements and supporting them in various capacities throughout their time at the University. Around 95 individuals, both within the University and beyond, applied for the position when the application was first posted in November. Each of the three finalists have been invited to extensive interviews, including meetings with faculty, students, the other class deans, the Office of Student Affairs, and staff from the Career Center and Center for Study Abroad.
Johnson-Thornton first joined the University as associate director of the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement program in 1998 and went on to serve as the assistant dean for Diversity and Student Programs, associate coordinator of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program, assistant dean for Academic Resources, and assistant dean of the University before being appointed as a class dean in 2015. She worked as dean for the classes of 2018 and 2022 until leaving the University to serve as the Senior Program Associate and Associate Director of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
In finding a candidate to fill Thornton-Johnson’s place, Patey stressed the importance of choosing someone who will excel at meeting student needs.
“We really see our goal as helping to support students as they navigate their journey through Wesleyan in as successful a way as possible,” Patey said. “Rather than saying, ‘Well, this is a policy you must abide by,’ it’s more, ‘How can we help you meet the expectations?’”
Patey emphasized how important student input has been in the candidate selection process.
“It’s been such a wonderful asset, because I know that we’ll reach a good decision with their participation,” Patey said. “Each of us has a role to play in representing different points of contact or facets of the job, but it’s really been so important…. I’m always so appreciative of the input of students, and it’s such a critical part of the process.”
As the search committee nears its final decision, Johnson-Thornton’s colleagues expressed their happiness for her achievements, coupled with sadness at her departure.
“Dean Thornton was a great colleague, and we at Wesleyan are deeply indebted to her for the good work she did for a long time,” President Michael S. Roth ’78 said. “I was very sorry that she was leaving, but I also congratulate her and celebrate her achievements.”
Vice President for Student Affairs Michael J. Whaley shared similar sentiments.
“I really miss Dean Johnson-Thornton,” Whaley wrote in an email to The Argus. “I was fortunate to work with her for a long time and admired her so very much. It is a big loss for Wesleyan, but I’m thrilled that she’s bringing her considerable talents and expertise to the Mellon Foundation.”
Sophie Wazlowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.