by Kily Wong ’16
Wellesley lost two key campus leaders with the departure of Victor Kazanjian, the former dean of Intercultural Education and Religious and Spiritual Life, and Michelle Lepore, the former associate dean of students. In the interim before these positions are permanently filled, the College has appointed Reverend Kelly Stone, director of Multifaith Programs and Protestant chaplain, as the interim dean of Religious and Spiritual Life. Donna Matson, assistant to the dean of Religious and Spiritual Life, will assume the role of the interim operations manager.
Kazanjian has been a vital part of Wellesley’s community for the past 20 years, serving as the dean of Religious and Spiritual Life, the co-director of the Peace and Studies program and, most recently, the dean of Intercultural Education. His leadership through the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life has driven the development of intercultural and multifaith education. He has moved on to serve as the executive director of the United Religions Initiative, an international grassroots organization dedicated to ending religious violence and promoting peace.
Meanwhile, Lepore has worked in the Dean of Students Office at Wellesley College for 13 years. Since 2000, she has been involved in projects and programs to help students become active learners at Wellesley and beyond. She will be joining the admissions office at Stanford University as an assistant dean of admissions for alumni volunteer relations.
Their responsibilities have been distributed to select members of the administration within the various departments that assist in the management of student life. While most of these amendments revolve around minor changes in interdepartmental communication, many administrators, including Karen Pabon, director of the Slater International Center and advisor for international students and scholars, Robin Cook-Nobles, director of the Stone Center Counseling Service, Kris Niendorf, assistant dean of students and director of Residential and Campus Life and Joanne Murray, executive director of the CWS and director of the Albright Institute, will also be taking on the challenge to continue the work that Kazanjian and Lepore began here.
However, the College feels that this decision was made in the best interest of the students. Rather than implementing immediate changes, the Division of Student Life will take the time to consider how it can make these two positions as strong as they can be. According to Dean of Students Debra DeMeis, the typical hiring period for most universities begins in the spring, which means the College will not even begin writing up job descriptions for the vacant positions until next semester.
“What we’ll be doing is looking at our needs, what works well for us and what we anticipate to be some needs for us in the future and think about what will be the best staffing for us in the future in a more permanent way,” DeMeis said.
DeMeis is responsible for overseeing all interim assignment procedures and upcoming hiring transitions that will take place. She is confident that the shuffling of staff will have a minimal impact on students.
“I don’t think the students will feel many changes,” she said. “Everybody who was chosen to take a part in new responsibilities was selected because they believed that they could continue the work that was started and make sure it goes forward this year—that was the guiding principle.”
Stone has served the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life since December 2011. She provides spiritual guidance and pastoral counseling as the Protestant chaplain and has worked regularly with the dean of Intercultural and Interreligious Education.
Stone believes that Kazanjian’s departure is a great loss to the College.
“When Victor was hired here 20 years ago, here in this space was created a multifaith model, [and] chaplains from distinct traditions were hired to support students,” Stone said. “Wellesley has been a national model for that work. Other colleges have had conversations with us, consulted with us, come and visited us to see how it works.”
However, Stone remains confident that there will be continuity in the vision of the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life.
Matson, with five years of experience serving as the assistant to the dean of Religious and Spiritual Life, also feels that the department will be able to continue Kazanjian’s work.
The departure of Lepore, who served in the Office of the Dean of Students for 13 years, may cause more of a management and operational disruption for the administration. Still, administrators are confident in their ability to maintain their levels of service to continue meeting students’ needs.
“I believe that many of the people who are helping by assuming a new role are very energized by the prospect of doing some new work for the rest of the academic year,” Lepore said.
Matson and Stone will only serve in these roles until permanent replacements are found. Meanwhile, the rest of the Student Life administration will continue to take on additional duties.
DeMeis anticipates that the hiring process for these two positions will be the same as the hiring process for other staff and administrative-level positions at the College. A search committee of student life administrators, students and faculty will be part of the interview process, which will take place by June or July. A key responsibility of the committee will be developing a diverse pool of applicants. If the ideal candidate is not found in the first round, the hiring cycle will repeat itself until the position is filled.