After spending the Fall term searching for a new assistant dean and advisor to the LGBT community on campus, the Office of Pluralism and Leadership appointed Reese Kelly, an LGBT advisor at Middlebury College, to the position.
The committee was composed of nine members, including students, alumni and College administrators, and focused its search on academic qualities and experience in social justice and LGBT issues, according to OPAL Director and search committee head Alysson Satterlund.
Current assistant dean and LGBT advisor Pamela Misener announced, who announced in June that she would be leaving the College, will formally resign on Jan. 21, after a decade at the College.
In October, four prospective candidates were invited to hold open presentations in the Collis Center for Student Involvement, and invited students and the search committee's members to attend.
OPAL incorporated student and alumni feedback into its deliberations during the formal search process, Misener said.
"From an alumni perspective, we were interested in seeing someone who has a lot of experience in LGBTQQIA populations," search committee member and Dartmouth Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Alumni Association president Caroline Kerr '05 said.
"Kelly strikes me as someone who builds bridges between communities, and I think that is really key for someone to be successful in this role."
Kelly holds a PhD in sociology and is a postdoctoral fellow at Middlebury College's women's and gender studies program. He is a recipient of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation's Women's and Gender Studies Dissertation Fellowship for his research on transgender identity management. In 2011, he was awarded the Faculty Leadership Award by the University of Vermont's LGBTQA Center.
As the office undergoes planning for an LGBT affinity house, Kelly's qualifications and expertise will provide OPAL with valuable perspective, Satterlund said. His "commitment to social justice" reflects the same focus that drew Misener to the College in 1999, she said. When she arrived on campus, Misener said she targeted Dartmouth's "overtly homophobic behavior."
Now, while she no longer regards the student body as hostile toward LGBT issues, she said she senses "assumptions of heterosexism" in the College's general social atmosphere.
Misener said she concentrated on working with College administrators to make campus a place where "LGBTQ experiences are routine rather than exceptional."
"When you look at the changes that have happened from when [Misener] first got here to where we are now, it's a much more comfortable climate for queer students," OUTreach Peer Mentor Nastassja Schmiedt '15 said.
Misener said she expects Kelly's work at the College will be both a fresh start and a continuation of her efforts. The committee was particularly impressed with Kelly's academic qualifications and extensive experience in LGBT issues, theory and identity, Satterlund said.
As a scholar at the "cutting edge" of LGBT activism and development, Kelly will help push change forward on campus, according to search committee member and OUTreach Peer Mentor Anna Roth '13.
The LGBT advisor's role entails more than simply serving as a resource for the student body, and includes connecting the College's LGBT students to the national LGBT community at large, Kerr said.
"We're always trying to work with the community as a whole including LGBT [alumni] and LGBT community members to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to connect to various networks," Misener said.
Kerr said she has received positive feedback from DGALA members regarding Kelly's appointment. The LGBT community is excited to welcome Kelly to campus, Roth said.
"Having someone new with these types of skills will really complement the outreach that we're working on now," Schmiedt said. "[Kelly] will be a great resource in working with administration to push changes."