Houses Welcome Three New Resident Deans

When Emily W. Stokes-Rees first learned that she had been offered the position of resident dean at Cabot House, the museum anthropologist said that she knew her life and the lives of her family members were going to change dramatically.

“Taking this position, it was knowing that life was never going to be the same again,” Stokes-Rees said. “And I mean that in a really great way.”

Stokes-Rees, along with Luke A. Leafgren of Mather House and Caitlin M. Casey ’03 of Lowell House, will serve as new resident deans this fall. While Stokes-Rees was previously a postdoctoral fellow at Brown University, both Leafgren and Casey were house tutors at Harvard before assuming their new positions.

Leafgren, a former tutor in Winthrop House and a lecturer in the department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, said his experience as Winthrop’s Interim Resident Dean last fall while Gregg Peeples—Winthrop’s resident dean—was on sabbatical, will help him as he navigates his way through the new role.

“That experience helped me get a good sense of the challenges and the satisfaction that come with this role,” Leafgren said in an interview with The Crimson last May.

Similarly, Casey, a former resident of Leverett House and a lecturer in History and Literature, served as a non-resident tutor in Currier last year. When the she learned about the opening at Lowell House, the opportunity seemed “ideal,” Casey wrote in an email to The Crimson, because she could not be reached by phone.

Though Stokes-Rees hails from another Ivy League school, she said she has found students to be more than welcoming.

“It was almost overwhelming,” Stokes-Rees said of the first couple weeks. “I’d go to meals with my family and we’d have students come up every two seconds and say hello.”

Students in Mather and Lowell have been equally friendly to their new resident deans as they transition into each house community, according to Leafgren and Casey. In her email, Casey wrote that getting to know the students is easily the most rewarding part of her position.

“They come in to get a add/drop form signed and 40 minutes later we’re in some profound conversation about global politics or music theory,” Casey wrote. “That part feels like a gift.”

At Mather House, House Committee Co-Chair Hannah M. Cardiel ’13 said she appreciates Leafgren’s willingness to make an effort to learn about Mather and get to know his students.

“We were all impressed with him right from the start,” Cardiel said. “He was excited about the Mather community and getting involved with it, which is very important to me personally because the community at Mather is unique and valued so highly.”

However, the new role has not come without challenges for the new resident deans.

Both Casey and Stokes-Rees admitted it was difficult to find balance as academics and House administrators. The position is supposed to be 50 percent dean and 50 percent academic, but for Stokes-Rees, the reality is that much more time is spent on matters related to the House, she said.

“I think that 50-50 balance will probably never be realized,” Stokes-Rees said. “And for me accepting the position was realizing that will probably never be the case.”

Nevertheless, Cabot House Master Rakesh Khurana believes Cabot is fortunate to have Stokes-Rees and said she exemplifies the values of Cabot.

“It’s still early into the semester, but she resonates commitment to the idea of community,” Khurana said.

—Staff writer Melanie A. Guzman can be reached at melanieguzman@college.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer Jane Seo can be reached at janeseo@college.harvard.edu.

CORRECTION: In an earlier version of this story, Winthrop’s Interim Resident Dean was listed as "Gregg Peoples." In fact, it is "Gregg Peeples."

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