In the midst of a staff transition in the Deans’ Office, the deans recently hired Leah Katzelnick ’10 to fill the new position of student study abroad advisor for the spring semester. She will assist sophomores with their plans for semesters or years abroad.
According to Associate Dean Laura McKeon, who works primarily with students who go abroad, she asked Katzelnick in January if she would be interested in the position. “We just needed help with supplementary things,” McKeon said. “What I do with students is to counsel them – make them look into themselves and figure out what they want in a program, but I’m a one-person office right now, so I needed someone to answer the more practical questions for students.”
Part of the need for the student position comes from the “musical chairs” of changes in the Deans’ Office staff, McKeon said. Tammy Smith, formerly an assistant to the deans, departed in early January. Karen Ryan, another assistant to the deans, will soon work with both study abroad and first-year advising, and the Deans’ Office is looking to hire an additional assistant. “We’re stretched pretty thin in the Deans’ Office,” McKeon said. “We used to have more deans and more assistants, but now we’re implementing the cross-training of assistants so that everyone knows how to do everything.”
Katzelnick’s position alleviates some of the pressure on all members of the Deans’ Office during the transition. Her responsibilities include directing students through the plethora of study abroad information available in the Deans’ Office and answering questions about filling out the various applications required to study abroad, including “pink petitions” and applications for programs and visas. Katzelnick also compiles the weekly newsletter that the College sends to students studying abroad. The newsletter was started in 2003, and it provides off-campus students with important dates and deadlines, updates of campus happenings and the like.
Katzelnick said that she is still settling in and finalizing her office hours. “Not many students have come in so far to ask me questions,” she said. “Not a lot of people know that I’m here yet.”
McKeon said that the position is very helpful, although she noted the difficulty of having Katzelnick in the office for only a few hours per week. “It’s tough to match up her hours with the exact moment that someone needs help, but it’s definitely useful,” McKeon said.
Dean Merrill also acknowledged the usefulness of the position. “It’s great that we can have knowledgeable students be part of the advising,” she said. “With half of the junior class going abroad, having a student provide perspective is very valuable.”
Katzelnick was selected for the position because of her experience abroad. She spent her junior year traveling with the International Honors Program (IHP) to India, China, South Africa and Switzerland. She also spent a summer in Nicaragua on a travel fellowship from the College.