Dean’s office realigns first year responsibilities

Rose Houglet

Christopher Sewell ’05 will coordinate the First Year Experience. Photo courtesy of Williams College.

Associate Dean of the College Christopher Sewell ’05 has assumed responsibility for overseeing the Junior Advisor (JA) program and First Years Experience from Associate Dean and Dean of First Year Students Dave Johnson ’71, according to an email to the JA class on Jan. 5. 

“Chris Sewell will take on primary responsibility for coordinating the First Year Experience and the JA system within the Dean’s office,” Dean of the College Marlene Sandstrom wrote in the email. “Dave will work closely with Chris to provide valuable guidance and support as he steps into this role. Dave will continue to lead coordination of the EphVenture programming. In addition, Dave will continue to offer on-going support, trouble-shooting, and check-ins with JAs.”

Johnson has been involved in multiple aspects of campus life throughout his time at the College, including coaching tennis and squash beginning in 1989 and teaching in the art history department for 13 years. On his online biography, he describes his work as dean of first years with great enthusiasm. 

“I landed in the best possible job on campus in the Dean’s office (in 1999), where I work with the Junior Advisors, oversee First Days and my favorite part – talking to students all day, learning about who they are and helping them solve problems,” he wrote.

Sewell majored in history and American studies at the College, graduating with an Africana Studies concentration. In his online biography, he detailed the focus of his current work as an associate dean of the College. 

“I work to support students in transition, specifically veterans, transfer students and students who come back from leave,” he wrote. “I also work closely with the Davis Center, the Health and Wellness Center, the Chaplain’s Office and Dean Johnson on First Year Experience.”

Benton Leary ’20, a JA who has worked closely with both Johnson and Sewell, expressed his appreciation of Johnson’s work as dean of first years. 

“The degree of thought and time [Johnson] spends in making sure that first years have a great time here is apparent in every meeting in which he participates,” he said. 

Leary also expressed excitement for the transition. “Chris Sewell has very much jumped into the role and is bringing the same level of enthusiasm and care to finding out what will be the best for students… He is also incredibly pragmatic and results-driven,” Leary said. “Above all else, I think that Dean Sewell’s focus above everything is to find out what is not working for students and how to change those things to make them work for students of Williams College.”

In her email to the JA class, Sandstrom thanked Johnson for his work and Sewell for his willingness to take over the dean of first years’ responsibilities. 

“At this juncture, I’d like to offer my tremendous gratitude to Dave for all of the incredible work he has put into the FYE [First Year Experience] and JA system over the years,” she wrote. “His steadfast stewardship and love for the students and the program has been a primary driving force behind their success over the years.”

“I am so grateful that Dave is committed to sharing his expertise and passion with Chris during this transition period and continuing to offer his support and enthusiasm to the JAs,” Sandstrom concluded the email. “A heartfelt thank-you to Dave for his wonderful stewardship, and a big thank-you to Chris for his willingness to take on leadership of these programs moving forward.”