by Micah Wilkins, web editor
After a year and a half of serving as Dean of Students of the college, Deb Myers left her post Feb. 8.
“I have a lot of love for Warren Wilson and the community here,” Myers said. “I’m sad to be going.”
Paul Perrine, who previously held the position of Associate Dean of Students, will act as interim Dean of Students for the remainder of the semester. Myers is very confident in Perrine to pick up where she left off. Though he has only been here since last semester, he is very experienced and works well with students, according to Myers.
“I think Paul is going to be a phenomenal Dean of Students,” Myers said. “It’s going to be a lot of work for him, no question. But I think he’s a really capable guy. He’s really smart, he knows his stuff, and he’s got great ideas. I think he’s going to be a terrific supervisor for the staff and advocate for the students.”
In the aftermath of Myers’s departure, the following morning that Perrine was told, he had his regular meeting with the student life leadership team. The week’s topic: where to go from here.
“We talked about how do we come together to make sure the work we’re doing keeps going,” Perrine said.
At this time in the school year, Student Life is in the midst of several engagements, including the budget process, faculty searches, and planning for next year’s orientation.
“It’s still pretty new as far as how we’ll restructure it, so that we’ll do our best to cover the work that needs to be done,” Perrine said. “No department is just one person.”
However, as leader of the department, Myers made some significant changes and improvements to Student Life in the small amount of time that she has been here, according to Perrine. “She modeled great care for students,” Perrine said. “I felt like the direction she had gotten our department to go in was good.”
Perrine and the rest of his department will work carefully to pick up where Myers left off, and to ensure a smooth transition in this change of leadership. Perrine has a lot of experience in Student Life.
“I was an assistant dean for a lot of years and had the occasion to step in to a role similar to this,” he said. “I definitely feel capable to do it.”
According to president Pfeiffer, Myers was hired as Dean of Students at the beginning of last school year to “assist in being a change agent in Student Life.”
Though her first year here was challenging at times, “she made progress toward the end,” Pfeiffer said. After arriving at Wilson last year, she immediately began acting as the “change agent” that she was hired on to be, implementing new practices in order to improve the Student Life department.
One such change was implementing the new Area Coordinator structure that was established right before Myers’s arrival. Implementing this new structure, along with other changes, posed some struggles according to Myers.
Several developments and improvements were made in her time here, Myers said.
“I think that when I was hired it was very clear that some change needed to happen in Student Life, and that we really needed to look at having more respectful living communities, that we needed to provide more support for students,” Myers said. “We needed to open a conversation on substance use on campus. I feel like those are some things that have happened in my time here.”
Furthermore, the issue of retention, which the school has been struggling with lately, is another area where Myers feels that she has made an impact.
“Everybody makes an adjustment when they come to Warren Wilson,” Myers said. “But this year’s been a great year.
Though Myers is sad to leave her post as Dean of Students, she will have time in the next couple months to accomplish things like finishing her dissertation.
“I need to finish my dissertation,” Myers said. “I was not being able to make progress at all, being the Dean. That’s a big professional and life goal for me.”
Though Myers is no longer working at the college, she will continue living on campus with her partner, Gary, and their sons, Zack and Benjamin. “My kids know the campus really well. We play in the gym a lot, and we’re going to continue to do those kinds of things.”
Myers has already begun a job search for next semester. She hopes to find another position at a small college, similar to Warren Wilson.
“I’m always going to want to work at a small school,” Myers said. “You get to know people well and build deep relationships. But I know I won’t find any place just like Warren Wilson. That’s just not going to happen.”
Myers’s partner is also in the midst of a job search, as Gary just received his M.B.A. They are both looking in Asheville, and elsewhere, for their next career moves.
“I love Asheville,” Myers said. “We’d be excited for something to work out for us as a family in town. We’re also open. We’ve lived a lot of places. We’re flexible.”
Though Perrine and president Pfeiffer have not yet determined an end date for his acting position, Perrine will likely remain the college’s interim Dean of Students for the remainder of this semester, at least. Joyce Milling, who was Assistant Director of Residence Life, is now taking Perrine’s old role, acting as the Director of Residence Life, through June 30.
A search for a new Dean of Students will be led by Warren Wilson’s next president, Steve Solnick, who will begin his new position July 1.
According to Solnick, it’s “too soon to tell” when or whether the college will begin searching for a new Dean of Students for next school year.
The Dean of Students is a very important role, especially at this college, according to Myers.
“At a place like Warren Wilson, where over 90 percent of students live on campus, and where we have this triad education, really the place where it all comes together is Student Life,” Myers said. “We place such a high value on community, and all of that stuff falls in the responsibility of student life. . . Students [should] have an advocate at the highest level, who stays in contact with students.”
“I’m excited to serve in this role,” adds Perrine. “There are lots of great people, the directors and the rest of the folks, are talented and capable people, and I know they’re going to keep doing the work that they do.” Perrine adds that the support at Warren Wilson is excellent. “My [President’s Advisory Council] colleagues are very supportive. The president’s very supportive, as well as everyone I talk to across campus.”