By Erica Quinones
Outgoing Assistant Dean of Students, Director of Intercultural Affairs, and Interim Director of Student Engagement Dr. Jean-Pierre Laurenceau-Medina will depart from Washington College after almost three and a half years.
Dr. Laurenceau-Medina’s farewell was announced in a Jan. 24 email by Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Dr. Sarah Feyerherm.
In the Jan. 24 email, Dean Feyerherm said Dr. Laurenceau-Medina’s last day is Feb. 13.
His successors are Assistant Director of Intercultural Affairs Carese Bates and Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Title IX Coordinator Dr. Candace Wannamaker.
Bates will become the Interim Director of Intercultural Affairs, and Dr. Wannamaker will supervise Student Engagement.
Dr. Laurenceau-Medina came to WC after previous jobs at Cornell University and University of Richmond. Throughout his career, he held positions which focused on equity, diversity, and inclusion, an interest stemming from his collegiate days.
He majored in psychology and then transferred to counseling, an interest piqued in “studying and learning about the experiences of historically underrepresented students, especially from an ethnic standpoint,” Dr. Laurenceau-Medina said.
“As someone who identifies as a person of color — Haitian and Ecuadorian descent — I wanted to know why is it the case that fellow people of color are underrepresented in higher education and what can I do to help change that,” Dr. Laurenceau-Medina said.
While Assistant Director of Student Engagement Sarah Tansits described Dr. Laurenceau-Medina as “an advocate” who worked to give underrepresented students a voice and space on campus, Dr. Laurenceau-Medina recognized that these goals required more than a couple of people to complete them.
He turned to the student community to create a group which “represented a myriad of cultural identities” to conduct outreach across campus and establish relationships across cultural differences, forming the Intercultural Ambassadors.
The project reached the heart of intercultural work by engaging students, according to Dean Feyerherm.
Its conception “recognized that students could do a lot of important work about identities around campus, that students have good ideas, and that we need to get their ideas out,” Dean Feyerherm said.
The bonds which create community are not only between students, but also students and staff, and staff members. Dr. Laurenceau-Medina’s colleagues remarked that he is a person who is both interested in and adept at creating close connections.
Director of Student Engagement Elaine Grant said Dr. Laurenceau-Medina is someone who “knows a lot of people in a lot of different ways.”
He engaged with students by volunteering at events like the George Washington Birthday Ball, and he met faculty and staff through pickup basketball games.
On the other side of campus, Dr. Laurenceau-Medina also left his mark on students.
“I stepped out of my comfort zone when I decided to join the Intercultural Affairs team as a freshman. However, after meeting [Dr. Laurenceau-Medina], the nerves went away almost immediately,” junior Rahat Choudery said. “I will never forget my first conversation with [him] because it was the moment that I realized he is more than a boss — he is a friend.”
His collaborative nature is not only something Dr. Laurenceau-Medina will carry into the future, but it remains at WC in Bates.
Bates said she learned to both “sit back and just listen” to students’ concerns, and “how to use your identity as your power [by knowing that] those [identities] are positions of privilege, and that we can still use them to discuss identity, to meet others, and to learn from others; the true definition of inclusion” from the outgoing Dr. Laurenceau-Medina.
Likewise, Dr. Laurenceau-Medina hopes Bates will continue developing the intercultural community on campus through her current effort to attain a larger office space.
He said that the area could help create a home away from home for students, as well as a space for intercultural interaction.
Dr. Laurenceau-Medina will carry on his collaborative skills as he pursues his earlier interest in the ethnic achievement gap at his new position as a Professional School Counselor at High Point High School in Prince George’s County.
High Point has a population which is approximately 80% Latinx or Hispanic, according to Dr. Laurenceau-Medina.
The school also has a large English Language Learning program. These demographics make High Point a space in which Dr. Laurenceau-Medina’s identity and bilingual skills are especially effective.
“[To have a] bilingual minority male presence, it is going to have an impact on students and families and the school environment,” Dr. Laurenceau-Medina said. “With this position, I will help create a better, stronger pipeline of Latinx students coming into higher education.”
Dr. Laurenceau-Medina wants to strengthen that pipeline by becoming a role model who has the experience to guide students through the collegiate journey.
His background in attending and working in different types of institutions will help him find the best fit for students while addressing other relevant issues such as financial aid.
“Some students may come from a background where they are the first to consider going to college, and they may not understand what that journey entails. So, I can break things down in ways that hopefully will be well received by not only students but families too,” Dr. Laurenceau-Medina said.
Dr. Laurenceau-Medina’s decision comes after a sport-related injury which led to a semester-long sabbatical. During that break, he said he “did a lot of reflection” and “soul searching.”
“The journey here at WC…has been wonderful,” Dr. Laurenceau-Medina said.
“I have no regrets in having this experience; it was just that time to move on,” Dr. Laurenceau-Medina said. “Being in that challenging situation made me really realize what I really want from my life, and my career, and what impact I want to have on others.”