Norma Lopez returns to alma mater to work as assistant dean of the College

Norma Lopez ’95 began working this semester as assistant dean of the College, replacing former dean Wanda Lee.

In her new role, Lopez will act as a personal and academic advisor, serve as the liaison between the Dean’s office and the Multicultural Center (MCC) and deal with residential life, including overseeing Morgan housing. She will also serve on the Committee of Undergraduate Life and coordinate first days next year.

While Lopez just arrived in August, this is not her first time back in Williamstown. She graduated from the College in 1995 as a history major and worked the three subsequent years in admissions.

“I have spent most of my adult life at Williams – seven years,” she said. Lopez came to Williamstown in 1991 from Chicago, at a time when her original relationship with the College was one of “love/hate.” Lopez’s return to the College reflects her change in heart. She said,” The longer I lived here, the harder it was to leave.”

Lopez’s goals in her new position include changing the image of the Dean’s office. She hopes that the Dean’s office will not be seen solely as a disciplinary office, but rather as an open source of support for both personal and social problems.

As residential advisor for Morgan Hall, she hopes the Dean’s office will be a source of support for first-years. She remembers living in Lehman as a first-year and missing her family and city life, as well as worrying about academics and career goals. For help, she turned to her JAs and Vista. Lopez would like to see the Dean’s office be another place first-years can turn to for help. She believes her youth and close relationship to the campus will aid her in advising students.

Lopez views drinking on campus as another issue she would like to see addressed. As Student Activities Director at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) for two years, she witnessed first-hand the wake of lawsuits following the death of freshman Scott S. Krueger from alcohol poisoning in 1997.

In addressing that issue at the College, she said, “I hope to promote open discussion and a proactive approach to student drinking.” She would like to continue to see students act responsibly and place personal safety as their first priority.

Additionally, Lopez will take over as full-time First Days coordinator starting next year and is currently gathering feedback regarding the program. She believed the event conveyed to first-year students all the necessary information and she especially enjoyed witnessing and participating in First Night, an addition to First Days from her freshman year. She said, “First Night allows students to experience many different academic areas and professors’ teaching styles.”

In Lopez’s opinion, little has changed at the College since she left in 1998. She noted physical differences, most notably, the remodeling of the Science Center and Goodrich, but stated that many of the campus issues remained the same.

She believes that the addition of each new class the same discussion regarding sexism, racism and homophobia needs to begin all over again. She feels it is important to address these issues now because as she said, “When you graduate, you think it’s done and then you realize that these discussions were only practice for what you face in the real world outside the ‘purple bubble.’”

While living in the “purple bubble” herself, Lopez was most disappointed with the presence of “isms” and “phobias” on campus. She had hoped the campus was above this ignorance.

The highlights of her years as a student include her close friendships and successes of achieving set goals, including graduation. She particularly enjoyed being part of Vista, the gospel choir and the Newman Association, as well as her history courses, and she encourages every student to take one before he or she graduates.

This past year Lopez married Daniel Anello ’98. He is currently helping start a new company, New Channel Marketing Technologies on Water Street. Lopez claims the two meet in Baxter’s snack bar, while her husband insists their crossing of paths first occurred outside Williams E.

Lopez remembered hearing the high marriage statistic during her first days and noted that she never believed that she would fall into this category. The two alums did not imagine that they would be returning to the College so soon but as Lopez said, “It is hard to leave.”

For the interim between her service at the admissions office and her new position, Lopez attended the Harvard School of Education, after which she took on her job at M.I.T.

As a final remark to the freshmen and all students at the College, Lopez said, “Take advantage of your four years. Before you know it, you will be walking across Baxter Lawn.”