As Swarthmore's dean of students, Elizabeth Braun oversees vital aspects of student life, including pre-major academic advising, career services, health and psychological services, residential life, multicultural initiatives, and social and extracurricular activities. She joined Swarthmore in July 2010 with a goal of creating and supporting an inclusive learning environment in which all students feel welcome. She believes that commitments to academic excellence and to a diverse and inclusive environment are central to Swarthmore's enduring values.
"The College must always provide opportunities for students to come together across differences and engage with one another," says Braun, whose Ph.D. dissertation research in cultural anthropology focused on issues of diversity within higher education.
Braun earned her B.A. in English from Mary Washington College, an M.A. in English Literature from Boston University, and her and her Ph.D. from University of Massachusetts-Amherst. She served as director of residential life at Mount Holyoke College from 1999 to 2003. In 2003 she was appointed Mount Holyoke's dean of students, a role in which she supervised the offices of Residential Life, Student Programs, and Disability Services. Her experience in higher education also includes serving as assistant director of residential life at Bowdoin College.
Braun says her greatest challenge as dean of students is to balance individual student needs and the overall needs of the community. She aims to provide support for individual students while also strengthening community connections.
Braun also believes that affirming students in their individual identities and creating a strong community environment helps students accomplish their goals and lead balanced lives. "A creative, supportive, and safe environment does not necessarily mean a comfortable environment," she says.
Braun adds that sometimes students will be uncomfortable but that is when they should take advantage of the support system that can help them push out of their comfort zone and try something new. It is Swarthmore's mission, she says, to create an environment where students can fully pursue their educational goals and aspirations.
"Being part of a liberal arts college is like a giant learning lab," Braun says. "There is an opportunity for an educational experience every moment of every day."