On Jan. 29, Brittany McDaniel started in her position as Wellesley College’s new associate dean of Residential and Community Life.
“One of my initial impressions, which I picked up during my interview and has been true during my first few days here, is that the residential experience means so much to people here,” McDaniel said.
When explaining what this position means to her, Brittany expressed that “part of the reason why I do this work is because it is really important to create an environment where when you come to college, you are able to find a home away from home, or maybe this is your first home,” she said. “We really want to think about how we can create an environment where everyone feels safe and finds connections. There’s the ability to learn so much from different folks within an environment when someone feels safe and included.”
McDaniel has a specific appreciation for liberal arts schools’ this was an influential factor in her decision to be a part of the Wellesley community.
“I grew in my appreciation for liberal arts about 10 years ago. I worked in another institution that was similarly sized, and I was able to see … that there’s just so much opportunity to think about how are we creating spaces within residence for faculty to come in, for students to just continue conversations they start in the classroom and in other campus spaces,” she said. “There’s so much more to learn about life and how can we work together to foster that environment within residences? The other piece about Wellesley is being able to work with very equity minded and intelligent individuals.”
In regards to the student body itself, McDaniel elaborated, “I find a lot of meaning and joy working with high-achieving students because there is additional investment that you have within your experience, and so I want to be a partner and I want my team to be a partner in working with students to figure out how we can make this vision a reality.”
McDaniel discussed some goals she hopes to achieve through this position, stating, “what I want to do is really be able to work with my team where if you [a student] is really feeling at that wit’s end, you are able to go to your CD but also know where our central officers are here [in Billings] so that you can connect with someone on my team or myself and to know that we really are here to support you on your journey.”
When asked about students who are non-traditional, such as transfer students or Davis Scholars, McDaniel explained that she hopes to work with them specifically in the future and have conversations about how she can enhance their unique transition to Wellesley.
“I want to acknowledge that for any student who is transferring, that’s a culture shock. It is also happening during such a developmental point in your life. What I am open to doing is finding time because I want to listen.”
McDaniel also shared a few fun facts about herself so that the student community can get to know her better.
“I have been trying to learn guitar so we will see what happens with that! I also do enjoy being outside unless there are a lot of bugs and then I don’t do so well. You will find me often in the gym so if folks see me in the gym they should say hi!”
Overall, her goals include being present and seen by the student community.
“I would love to come to student-run programs, and would love to be invited as well. Students are a critical part of the conversation.”