As the new academic year begins, the Class of 2018 is getting acquainted with its new Dean of Students: Dean Alison Black. As Black immerses herself into Wellesley’s campus, she reveals that from becoming involved in students’ lives to pursuing her own interests, she throws herself wholeheartedly into what she is passionate about.
Her interest in working with college students stems from her own college experience at Kenyon, a liberal arts college in Ohio.
“I was a very involved student and I had a lot of mentors among the staff and faculty. So I wanted to give back to students what I had gotten from my mentors,” Black said. “I think, in terms of my own college experience, that I could bring some of the trials and tribulations that I experienced as a college student to any job that I’ve had in higher education.”
Thinking about her time at Kenyon, Black spoke about the classes that she was most passionate about, noting that she really appreciated the opportunity to explore the variety of subjects offered by a liberal arts college. While she majored in psychology, she was particularly passionate about gender, sexuality and diversity. Black remains connected to her school in various ways, including conducting interviews for applicants in Massachusetts.
Prior to working at Wellesley College, Black worked at Olin as the Assistant Dean of Students and the Title IX Coordinator, amongst other roles.
“At Olin I wore a lot of different hats, especially because it is such a small school,” Black explained. “Over the ten years that I was at Olin, I certainly learned a lot about engineering because I went to a lot of their student presentations or even class demonstrations, because I really wanted to understand what the students were doing outside of my office.”
However, her connection to Wellesley reaches farther back than just her ten years at Olin; she attended the Exploration Summer Program (Explo) on a break from her high school in New Jersey. She stayed in Bates for the summer and looks forward to visiting the residence hall.
Although she has only been on campus for a short period of time, she has not wasted a moment in becoming involved on campus by exploring orientation events and even attending a tennis match. She has also been busy acquainting herself with the Class of 2018.
She has found ways to bond with students over common interests, including one of her favorite pastimes: running marathons.
Black discovered a passion for running in her early thirties, and after running 5Ks she decided that she would like to train for marathons.
“5Ks weren’t going to be enough for me; I like to challenge myself,” Black said.
She is now part of the “50 States Club,” which means that her goal is to complete a marathon in every state in the U.S. She has run in 40 states so far, even running the Boston marathon three times. She will be traveling to Nebraska soon to cross off one of the remaining ten on her list.
Not only has Black found a sense of accomplishment from crossing the finish line, she has also found a community in running marathons.
“It just seemed like such a nice community of people and also such a great accomplishment to cross the finish line of any race, whether it’s a 5K or a marathon,” Black explained. “Runners are sometimes an odd bunch of people, so we really understand each other. Some people think it would be monumental to do one marathon, and it certainly would be, but to meet people who want to do 50, it’s nice to connect and bond with those people.”
Black acknowledges not only the physical difficulties of training for the marathon but also the mental strength it takes to reach the finish line. She explained that much of her motivation comes from specific mantras and quotes that she uses, such as “keep moving forward,” which she has on a poster that will decorate her office.