By Victoria Gill-Gomez
An Oct. 14 email from Vice President of Student Affairs Sarah Feyerherm announced several staffing changes in the Office of Student Affairs.
“Over the last year, Student Affairs has not been immune from the staffing reductions across campus. When Sarah Tansits left as our Director of Student Engagement, we made the strategic decision to not replace her and instead, use that open position to bring in our interim Dean of Students, while asking other members of our staff to step in and fill the important pieces of Sarah’s work,” Feyerherm said.
These changes will be in place for the remainder of the 2020-2021 academic year, according to the email, as the “complex and on-going needs around campus planning during the pandemic, as well as the recent departures of some of our staff” need to be covered.
These changes are to ensure that the Office of Student Affairs continues to devote the necessary attention to safe campus operations and continue the strides already made in several student life initiatives.
As such, the Office of Student Affairs welcomes Greg Krikorian as the interim dean of students.
According to Feyerherm, the dean of students title has always been part of the vice president for Student Affairs title at WC. She was dean of students since beginning her career at the College in 1993 as the head field hockey coach.
At larger institutions where the two are separated, the distinction is normally that the vice president has a broader range of the multiple departments that make up the student experience. They strategize the oversight and responsibility of working with various members of the senior staff and the Board of Visitors and Governors.
During the summer, when Feyerherm was dedicating a lot of her time to co-chairing the Contingency Planning Group “[the Office of Student Affairs] decided that it was critical to bring in experienced leadership to manage the day-to-day of the areas…so that we could ensure that we were continuing to provide our students with the type of out-of-class experience and support they deserve,” Feyerherm said.
The College consulted with The Registry, an organization that connects institutions with senior-level professionals to provide interim positions and expertise.
After reviewing Krikorian’s credentials and talking with him, Feyerherm decided that he was the right person to help lead the College through this challenging year.
Krikorian said he has known about WC for years and admires the engagement of the student body and the beauty of the campus.
Initially, Krikorian worked as a counselor in an agency setting. After attending Bowling Green University for his master’s degree in the same field where he discovered his connection while working with college students.
Krikorian has served as the chief student affairs officer at two small, liberal arts colleges: Hartwick College and, most recently, Lebanon Valley College.
For Feyerherm, it was his background in counseling and deep experience in managing similar challenges currently seen at WC that compelled her to hire him such as addressing Title IX and magnifying student voices to administration.
She said that after talking to Krikorian, it was clear that not only was he an excellent leader but also an effective communicator who can engage with college students about difficult subjects.
After working in higher education for 30 years, Krikorian is progressively taking on different and more responsibilities. For the past 20 years, he has been either a dean of students or vice president.
Krikorian said he has always worked at small private liberal arts institutions, managing all areas of student life.
“Coming to WC allows me to assist with some areas of higher education that I really enjoy. I am hoping I can make a difference in the student experience while I am working for WC,” he said. “Probably the most important thing I have learned is we must be student-centered in everything we do.”
Krikorian’s current responsibilities are to supervise and support the current staff who have primary responsibility for areas relating to student life. This includes Residential Life, Student Engagement, Counseling Services, Intercultural Affairs, the Honor Board members, and Title IX.
Having worked at the College for a few weeks, Feyerherm said that Krikorian has absorbed some of the most critical projects in this department, such as Title IX, student conduct, mental health working groups, and working with Assistant Dean of Student Success Tya Pope and Director of Residential Life Ursula Herz.
“I truly enjoy working on a college campus and am open to hearing about [students’] ideas to strengthen the WC experience. I am hoping to see many more people in February,” Krikorian said.
Krikorian currently resides near Hershey, Pa. with his family. He will hopefully be commuting in the spring.
As Dean Feyerherm continues her role overlooking student life on campus, her responsibilities include overlooking the CPG with Chief of Staff Vic Sensenig; career development; athletics; health services; and mainly work on COVID-19 safety; and continued collaboration with key student groups.
Another change in the department includes Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Candace Wannamaker, who will serve as interim director of student engagement after the departure of Sarah Tansits. She will take the lead on primary elements of the student experience for the spring, including residential living: on-campus, off-campus, and at-home.
For students deciding to return to campus for the next semester, Wanamaker will have a “logistical lead” within the Contingency Planning Group relating to dorm quarantine and isolation procedures. This is to ensure that the College and other student and departmental organizations can continue to effectively operate campus experiences throughout the pandemic.
Wannamaker will also continue her work with Peer Mentors, the Student Engagement Board, and other student organizations like Greek Life “in developing a robust social life on campus,” Feyerherm wrote in her email.
When Wannamaker first arrived at the College in 2016, she was originally in the position of associate vice president for student affairs & Title IX coordinator. Now she is working within the larger department. With the spring semester ahead, she looks forward “to being involved again with [Student Events Board] and the students that work so hard to create engagement opportunities for our campus.”
Wannamaker said that with current social distancing, many elements of the student experience have changed. What remains the same is the dedication of student-led organizations, such as Peer Mentors, in connecting and mentoring first-year students.
Over the past few months, Peer Mentors have adapted their usual on-campus routine with helping the first-years transition to campus life by having drop-in office hours, weekly meetings with their mentee groups, and constantly checking in with first-year advisors to better serve the students.
“The pandemic has been challenging to create an atmosphere of connection on campus,” Wannamaker said. “Our main focus is to do everything we can to make sure that our campus is safe for students, faculty, and staff to return. This has truly been a campus-wide effort where every department no matter the size is invested in having everyone return safely, and as soon as we can. With that said — we cannot control the COVID-19 virus, so our plans may be modified depending on what the future brings.”
In addition, Athletic Director Thaddeus Moore will continue his additive duties to provide operational supervision and support for Public Safety, “a group that has never left campus even when we closed during the spring.”
“I am incredibly grateful for the ‘can-do’ attitude that my staff and others on this campus have demonstrated,” Feyerherm said. “We have all been asked to do things that are beyond our comfort zones, solve problems that we’ve never faced, and to work hours that we never imagined. They do this all because they love working on a college campus and helping young people. But nobody was ever prepared for this and they have all responded like champions.”
Featured Photo caption: The Eugene B. Casey Academic Center houses the Office of Student Affairs which recently underwent personnel changes. Photo by Izze Rios.