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New Residential Life Dean Hits Ground Running

New Residential Life 
  Dean Hits Ground Running

by Alisa Giardinelli

South Florida native Rachel Head began in July as the College's new assistant dean for residential life. She has been immersed ever since in preparations for the 2008-2009 academic year to open.

Rachel Head

Rachel Head


"When I first met with resident assistants (RAs) here, they told me that they aren't just seen as an RA for, say, Willets, but are seen as RAs all around campus," Head says. "That says a lot about the community and respect of the residential life program around campus."

Building that community is something Head takes seriously. "The work of the Dean's Office does nothing if not complement and support the work of the classroom," she says. "We're another community of teachers, here to add on to what's learned elsewhere on campus."

Head came to Swarthmore from Dartmouth College, where for two years she led a program focused on integrating faculty into residential education activities. She previously served in the residential life offices of the University of North Carolina and the University of South Florida, where she also coordinated volunteer activities in the University's Center for Civic Engagement.

Head holds a Bachelor of Social Work from Florida State University and an M.E.D. from the University of South Florida. After working as a housing graduate assistant during graduate school, she started looking for ways to incorporate social work into her work with college-aged students.

"I've worked with students who've had challenges and for whom going home over break isn't a good thing," she says. "This is where my counseling and communication skills as a social worker are transferable. In a 'person in environment' system, like in social work and in college, some of the most basic theories are the same.

Ultimately, Head says everyone at Swarthmore wants the same thing: "For students to be successful, to help them try to figure out who they are and who they want to be, and to provide opportunities for them to explore and challenge some of the ideas that maybe they've always accepted."