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Made for Each Other: Jeannine Belton and her New Job

“The associate dean of student affairs is responsible for providing leadership and direction to the residence life program, “ensuring a residential environment that contributes to overall student life satisfaction and to each student’s achievement of academic and personal excellence.” From the job description.

Jeannine BeltonJeannine Belton, the new associate dean of student affairs at Smith, knew that the Smith position was the right one for her the minute she read the job description. “I wondered why it took them so long to call me for an interview,” she said jokingly last week as she sat in her second floor office in College Hall. Formerly the coordinator of residence education at Virginia Commonwealth University, a 24,000 student institution in Richmond, Virginia, Belton says Smith seemed like “a nice fit for me and I was ready to move to the next level.” Although she had a lot of residence life experience at Virginia Commonwealth and, before that, in a series of positions at the State University of New York at New Paltz, “I hadn’t had the small private institution or the women’s college experiences.”

Belton spent a week on the campus in July (before returning in mid-August to move into her apartment on Kensington Avenue) and was immediately impressed with faculty and staff commitment to supporting students. About the residential life staff—both students and staff—she says, “Although there had been some challenges in the spring,” what she has found here is “a phenomenal group committed to making changes, with me, for the betterment of students.” She has spent a lot of time with the res life staff, she says, and learned that they’re eager for change.” Belton says she has set high expectations but she recognizes that “it’s a process; you have to build a solid foundation.”

Asked what her initial goals are for the area and residence coordinators and head residents, she responded that she wants to build trust and collaborative partnerships, to fine tune training, to do skill-building around issues of diversity and multiculturalism and “to instill res life pride in the staff.” It all boils down to “the cultivation of leadership.” Also on her list is work on staff retention and organizational structure and the formulation of a mission and vision statement. Belton knows she will have to put in long hours but says that hard work in the beginning will make the whole year run more smoothly.

Jeannine Belton is a graduate of Central Michigan University and has a master of science degree in education administration and supervision from the State University of New York at New Paltz. She is currently enrolled in a Ph. D. program at Virginia Commonwealth University.” Her office is on the second floor of College Hall.

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