Dean of Student Life Suzy M. Nelson was named the new vice president and dean of the College at Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y. on Monday.
During her six-and-a-half years at Harvard, Nelson has led initiatives to revise the College’s alcohol policy and renew the residential House system as the head of the Office of Student Life since its creation in 2009.
Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds announced Nelson’s departure in an email to College staff on Monday, adding that a search for Nelson’s permanent replacement will commence “in the near future.”
After Nelson leaves Harvard for her new position at the end of June, current Associate Dean of Student Life Joshua G. McIntosh will serve as interim dean of student life.
McIntosh has named continuing many of Nelson’s major initiatives as priorities for his tenure as interim dean of students. These include planning for House renewal, developing the new BGLTQ program, and publicizing public service opportunities to the student body, McIntosh wrote in an email. He declined to comment on any intentions to apply for the permanent position.
In the Colgate press release, Nelson cited both professional and personal reasons for accepting the new position.
“Given Colgate’s proven reputation as an exceptional liberal arts college, with an enriching and complementary student life program, I am eager to embrace this new professional opportunity,” Nelson said.
Nelson added that her move to Colgate will “allow our family to return to the beautiful Upstate New York region, where my husband, our four children, and I have roots.” Nelson’s hometown of Oxford, N.Y. is about a 30-mile drive from Colgate.
At Harvard, top College administrators sang praises of their departing colleague.
“It has been a pleasure to work with Suzy,” Assistant Dean of Student Life David R. Friedrich wrote in an email. “Colgate has made a great choice, and the students there will really benefit from her leadership. We’ll certainly miss her.”
McIntosh echoed Friedrich’s sentiments, writing that Nelson “has been an extraordinary mentor and friend. I am going to miss her tenacity, resilience, collaborative leadership style, and wonderful sense of humor.”
Nelson was chosen for the position from a pool of four finalists narrowed down by a search committee of thirteen Colgate administrators, affiliates, and students who began their search last August, The Colgate Maroon-News reported in February.
Nelson came to Harvard as associate dean of residential life in 2005. She was appointed dean of student life in 2007.
Nelson’s work at Colgate will focus on many of the same themes of residential life, inclusion, and service that she emphasized at Harvard.
“Suzy will play a vital role in fostering a rich set of living experiences, promoting discussions across differences, developing service opportunities, and helping to ensure that Colgate students live vibrant and healthy lives,” Colgate University President Jeffrey Herbst said in a press release.
Nelson, who earned her Ph.D. in higher education administration at Syracuse University and her undergraduate degree at the State University of New York at Potsdam, has previously worked as an administrator at Syracuse, Cornell University, and Siena College—all in New York—as well as Bowling Green State University in Ohio.
Prior to that, she taught English in two New York school districts, according to the Colgate press release.
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