On Feb. 1, President Adam Falk announced in a campus-wide email that Marlene Sandstrom, Hales Professor of Psychology, will succeed Sarah Bolton as Dean of the College when Bolton assumes the presidency of the College of Wooster on July 1. Falk offered Sandstrom the position after consultations with the Faculty Steering Committee (FSC).
Sandstrom joined the psychology department in 1999 and has since served on multiple committees, including the Honor and Discipline Committee, the Committee on Academic Standing, the Committee on Undergraduate Life and the Institutional Review Board. She is currently serving as the co-director of the Williams-Exeter Programme at Oxford with her husband Noah Sandstrom, professor of psychology.
In his email, Falk described Marlene Sandstrom’s experiences as relevant in “serving the college and its students in academic and administrative capacities.”
The selection process began immediately after Dean Bolton accepted the presidency of the College of Wooster on Nov. 11. Ngonidzashe Munemo, associate professor of political science and chair of the FSC, solicited recommendations and suggestions for the appointment from students in another campus-wide email on Dec. 4.
Sandstrom, who is still living in Oxford, will visit Williamstown in March to meet with her future colleagues in the dean’s office. “Several people have joined the team since I left for Oxford in the
summer of 2014 and are doing some really fabulous work,” Sandstrom said in an email. “I’m eager to build on their success.”
With several months until Sandstrom takes on her new responsibilities, she has time to plan and establish goals for her term as dean. “I think one of my primary responsibilities as dean is to help students figure out how to best take advantage of all that’s here in the time they have,” she said. “It’s about helping students succeed academically and socially. It’s about advising, academic support and community building. I am hoping to help students shape an experience at Williams that can launch them into the lives they want to lead.”
Sandstrom also hopes to build on past work. “Dean Bolton initiated some really positive changes to our first-year advising system, and it is much stronger now,” she said. “There may be ways to make it even more effective. The advising relationship has the potential to be a very powerful one for students, especially if it gets off to a good start from the outset.”
Sandstrom’s psychological research focuses on childhood peer relationships, responses to negative peer treatment and aggression and bystander behavior in the school context. She hopes to expand academically-focused mental health resources on campus. “We have a wide net of strong support systems in place – some originating in the Health Center, others run by students. It is an incredibly rich network,” Sandstrom said. “But some students, for a host of reasons, have a hard time making the most of those resources. I’d like to learn more about the obstacles that get in the way, so that we can make all of our resources more accessible.”
As Dean of the College, Sandstrom will work with President Falk on big-picture challenges. “One of the biggest challenges is that the world of work is changing. Career means something different now than it meant 25 or even 10 years ago,” Sandstrom said. “The good news is that we are perfectly poised to address this challenge. By design, Williams nurtures the ability to be intellectually nimble, to think critically and to find common ground across disciplines. It may be an old tradition, but it is one that will serve us particularly well moving forward.”
Sandstrom earned her bachelor’s degree from Yale and conducted graduate research at Duke. She worked as an instructor and assistant clinical professor at Duke before she came to Williams in 1999. Her term will last at least three years, with the possibility of a lengthened term.