Oberlin College & Conservatory is a four-year, highly selective liberal arts college that combines a top-ranked college of arts and sciences with a world-renowned conservatory of music. Combined, the two divisions enroll approximately 2,900 students. Founded in 1833, Oberlin College & Conservatory was the first college in America to make interracial education and coeducation central to its mission-traditions that live today within a commitment to positive social engagement.

Located 35 miles southwest of Cleveland, Ohio, Oberlin College & Conservatory has earned a reputation of excellence based on the quality of its richly diverse student body, outstanding faculty, excellent facilities, and academic and technological resources.

The Position

Position Description

The Associate Dean of Students and Director of Residential Education is an Administrative and Professional Staff (A&PS) position which reports directly to the Dean of Students and Vice President of Student Life. The Associate Dean and Director provides leadership, vision, and direction to a team of professional staff, paraprofessional staff, and student staff in the planning and implementation of holistic, welcoming, and engaging residential communities which promote meaningful open discourse among people with differing opinions and experiences as a key support and component of a strong liberal arts education. This is accomplished through a culture of assessment and continuous improvement with the goal of supporting the division in its mission: to foster a sense of community in this residential college in which students build lasting relationships based on the principles of ethical conduct; an understanding of diversity in all of its complexity; respect for self and others; the lived values of social justice and equity; and a commitment to promoting positive change in the world. Candidates with traditional student housing backgrounds and/or backgrounds in high-impact holistic student support are encouraged to apply.

Administrative Responsibilities:

  • provide leadership in the process of developing a short- and long-range plan to update, transform, and renovate residential spaces on campus that align with best practices, student retention, and student success;
  • lead the department in a positive communications strategy, focusing on customer service, helpfulness, diplomacy, and a “yes, if…” communication practice with students, colleagues, and outside stakeholders;
  • develop a long-term plan for programming to support RAs in building community, adopting best practices, and maximizing effectiveness in a liberal arts environment;
  • assess all aspects of Residential Education, including, but not limited to: current software use (Banner, Maxient, Odyssey); social, educational, and developmental programming; website; housing selection; move-in; facilities; key process; RA hiring, training, and compensation; and, staff size and organization structure;
  • institute a best practices culture, pushing Oberlin’s Residential Education program to meet and exceed standards and become a leading Residential Education program;
  • flexibility and adaptability in quickly revising programs and services based on assessment data and best practices;
  • develop effective policies, protocols, processes, and structures to ensure the health, safety, security, and welfare of students. Ensure compliance with all relevant policies, procedures, standards, and laws;
  • focus on on-going training and professional development, including an emphasis on enhancing the college’s on-call system by developing training for Area Coordinators and student staff;
  • looking for and creating opportunities with nearby institutions and across the country by participating as appropriate in state, regional, and national professional organizations;
  • oversee the development, improvement, and implementation of an outcome-based residential education curriculum and programming model focused on supporting students’ social, educational, and developmental needs;
  • responsible for recruitment, selection, hiring, onboarding, training, developing, coaching, recognition, and providing formative supervision to approximately 15 professional Residential Education staff members;
  • prompt, regular attendance at departmental and divisional meetings;
  • serve in the rotation of deans on call as part of the College’s 24-hour crisis response team, which consists of deans, Residential Education on-call staff, counselors on call, and the Department of Safety and Security; and
  • oversee and evaluate Residential Education’s budget and processes, making sound short-term and long-term financial decisions.

Collaborative Responsibilities:

  • collaborate with departments across the division and campus such as Facilities Operations, Safety & Security, and academic departments to further the goal of creating and maintaining holistic, welcoming, and engaging residential communities;
  • assist with Pre-Arrival and New Student Orientation, overseeing pre-arrival and new student move-in activities and introduction to residential education programming in particular; includes, but not limited to creating a festive and welcoming environment for pre-arrival students and their families arriving before the standard new student arrival date, collaborating with other departments to create a welcoming process for new students arriving after normal business hours, and organizing panels and programs for pre-arrival students and their families;
  • oversee a welcoming and efficient move-in process and programming for returning Students;
  • work with Campus Dining Services, not only to ensure a smooth dining experience for residents and guests, but also to think creatively on how the dining experience contributes to the educational mission of a residential campus and the liberal arts experience; and
  • participate in behavioral advising and support through systems such as SHARE advising (non-emergency), on-call, and Behavioral Intervention Team (BIT), and other general student advising.

Knowledge Of:

  • personal computer applications: word processing, spreadsheet, database, and email.

Skill In:

  • proficiency in MS Excel and Word;
  • excellent organizational and communication skills;
  • written and interpersonal communication with the ability to communicate effectively with all;
  • components of the College and external constituents;
  • demonstrated, strong administrative competence;
  • written and verbal communication, including public speaking; and
  • excellent problem solving, analytical skills, and strong project management skills to meet deadlines and work effectively with others.

Ability To:

  • create a diverse and inclusive staff and provide equitable and inclusive services to the College community;
  • work as a team member;
  • respond to common inquiries or complaints from students, scholars, college stakeholders, or regulatory agencies; and
  • work in a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural environment with students, faculty and staff.

Characteristics of the Successful Candidate

The successful candidate will have a master’s degree in an applicable field and a minimum of five years’ experience in Residential Education or experience working with high-impact initiatives such as career communities or developing co-curricular programs. A terminal degree is preferred. The candidate must have demonstrated management experience with budget oversight, personnel supervision, and program development, as well as experience in developing relationships with people from different cultural backgrounds. In addition, the successful candidate will be on top of trends and best practices in residential education. Previous experience in both creating new programs and assessing and revamping ongoing older initiatives; interest in and engagement with developmental advising and mentoring; strong written and interpersonal communication with the ability to communicate effectively with all components of the College and external constituents; experience promoting student success and inclusion; and experience in the hiring, training, and management of professional and student staff are all desired qualifications. Candidates with student housing backgrounds and backgrounds in high-impact holistic student support are encouraged to apply.

In addition, the following characteristics and attributes are important to Oberlin College when considering the position:

  • a record of proven administrative leadership, most especially navigating change;
  • unquestionable integrity, judgement, and professional maturity;
  • strong organizational and communication skills;
  • adaptable and flexible style to respond compassionately and developmentally to various and often complex interactions;
  • the ability to foster strong partnerships with all members of the internal and external campus community;
  • demonstrated understanding and commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and how that understanding influences student interactions with campus resources;
  • a desire to learn and work in an environment that supports diverse student identities and their intersectionality;
  • ability to build and support a cohesive team;
  • an understanding of student development and leadership theory and its impact on practice;
  • a professional ethos grounded in creating a residential ecosytem of success resources for a diverse student body; and
  • knowledge of current issues and best practices in residential education program development.

Likely Opportunities, Priorities, and Challenges of the Position

The associate dean and director of residential education has a distinct opportunity to provide leadership and vision on institutional efforts supporting enhanced student learning.  While the College community is engaged in a comprehensive academic and administrative program evaluation, the next associate dean and director will be expected to think strategically and creatively to identify how educational opportunities, experiences, and residential spaces can shape student success and engagement. With a strong focus on critical dialogue and student learning, the associate dean and director will be expected to work across the campus to help students see the expansive opportunities and services that exist to support their development.

In transitioning to Oberlin College the next associate dean and director of residential education will be expected to:

  • evaluate the current office structure in line with office mission and goals, student feedback, and divisional and institutional strategic planning objectives for efficiency and enhanced student engagement outcomes;
  • be accessible and available to student leaders and the diverse campus student population;
  • expertly communicate and build relationships across all constituency groups; and
  • astutely assess and evaluate departmental policies and procedures to assure student needs and opportunities for development are being addressed.

Institution & Location

Institutional Background

Oberlin College is a private liberal arts college in Oberlin, Ohio. The college was founded as the Oberlin Collegiate Institute in 1833 by John Jay Shipherd and Philo Stewart. It is the oldest coeducational liberal arts college in the United States and the second oldest continuously operating coeducational institute of higher learning in the world. The Oberlin Conservatory of Music, part of the college, is the oldest continuously operating conservatory in the United States.

The College of Arts & Sciences offers more than 50 majors, minors, and concentrations. Oberlin is a member of the Great Lakes Colleges Association and the Five Colleges of Ohio consortium. Oberlin is a place of intense energy and creativity, built on a foundation of academic, artistic, and musical excellence. With a top-ranking liberal arts college, a world-class conservatory, and a first-rate art museum all on a single campus, it is the ideal laboratory in which to study and design the world you want.

A Presbyterian minister and a missionary founded Oberlin in 1833. The duo, the Rev. John J. Shipherd and Philo P. Stewart, became friends while spending the summer of 1832 together in nearby Elyria. They discovered a mutual disenchantment with what they saw as the lack of strong Christian principles among the settlers of the American West. They decided to establish a college and a colony based on their religious beliefs, “where they would train teachers and other Christian leaders for the boundless most desolate fields in the West.”

Shipherd and Stewart adopted some of the ideas of the man who inspired them: Alsatian pastor John Frederick Oberlin, who pioneered educational programs, established schools, built roads, and introduced the trades of masonry and blacksmithing throughout poor communities in France.

With their own labor and faith, combined with funding from several wealthy sources, they established the town and the college on about 500 acres of donated land with about 40 other individuals. In spring 1833, the first settler, Peter Pindar Pease, built his log house at the center of Oberlin. That December, 29 men and 15 women began classes as the first students of the Oberlin Collegiate Institute.

The college soon adopted the motto, “Learning and Labor.” In those days, tuition was free because students were expected to contribute by helping to build and sustain the community. The concept attracted many bright young people who would otherwise not have been able to afford tuition. Eventually this approach was discontinued, although the motto remained.

Shipherd and Stewart soon gained the support of Charles Grandison Finney, one of the great revivalists of the 19th century. Finney’s reputation as a fiery and outspoken preacher attracted many to this fledgling community. He later served as the second president of the college after social reformer and abolitionist Asa Mahan, who served from 1835 to 1850.

The college and community thrived on progressive causes and social justice. Among Oberlin’s earliest graduates were women and black people. While Oberlin was coeducational from its founding in 1833, the college regularly admitted black students beginning in 1835, after trustee and abolitionist, the Rev. John Keep, cast the deciding vote to allow them entry.

Women were not admitted to the baccalaureate program, which granted bachelor’s degrees, until 1837. Prior to that, they received diplomas from what was called the Ladies Course. The college admitted its first group of women in 1837: Caroline Mary Rudd, Elizabeth Prall, Mary Hosford, and Mary Fletcher Kellogg, although Kellogg did not complete her degree in 1841 along with the others.

In 1844, George B. Vashon became the first black student to earn a bachelor’s degree from the college, followed by Mary Jane Patterson who, in 1862, earned a BA degree in education, becoming the first black woman to earn a degree from an American college.

In 1850, Oberlin Collegiate Institute became Oberlin College. The name reflected a gradual shift in the curriculum and educational focus, which transitioned the institution from a preparatory, manual labor, and theology-based program to one that offered formal instruction and coursework in the classics, sciences, the fine arts, and music, among other disciplines.

The conservatory became part of the college in 1867, two years after its founding as a private school.

Efforts throughout Oberlin’s history to build and sustain a strong liberal arts curriculum paid off in 1957. The Chicago Tribune, after a national survey, named Oberlin the number one coeducational liberal arts college, ahead of such institutions as Swarthmore, Carleton, Reed, Lawrence, Kalamazoo, and Hope. The paper cited the college’s exceptionally high standards of scholarship and teaching and its record of producing one of highest rates of graduates who go on to earn doctorate degrees.

Institutional Leadership

Carmen Twillie Ambar, President

Carmen Twillie Ambar is the 15th president of Oberlin College and the first African American leader in its 184-year history. She was appointed to the post in May 2017 after serving for nine years as president of Cedar Crest College in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

Early on at Oberlin, President Ambar emphasized engaging Oberlin’s distinctive liberal arts education with the wider world. Early initiatives have included enhancing winter term, promoting internships and study abroad, building career communities, and creating hands-on opportunities for students. To ensure Oberlin’s future as a leading liberal arts college and conservatory, President Ambar and the board of trustees began a full-spectrum examination of the institution. Rooted in Oberlin’s values and led by some of the wisest and most committed faculty, staff, alumni, trustees, and students, the process aims to offer long-term strategies for reallocation and growth.

Notable achievements in President Ambar’s first year included a six-year high in student enrollment and the launch of “Connect Cleveland,” in which all 839 first-year students traveled to Cleveland for a day of service, experiential learning, and connecting with alumni. Working to strengthen ties between the college and the city of Oberlin, President Ambar promoted orientation programs that gave first-year students an in-depth introduction to the city, encouraged them to shop locally, and offered advice about being a good neighbor.

At Cedar Crest College, President Ambar’s leadership substantially strengthened and reshaped the college. Her successes included multiple years of multimillion-dollar budget surpluses, a 35 percent growth in assets that allowed for significant investments in the campus without borrowing, and a 92 percent growth in the endowment. She presided over the launch of 18 new academic programs and an enrollment growth in six of her last seven years of leadership. President Ambar also led initiatives to expand access to high-impact practices for all students, including the Sophomore Expedition, campus vibrancy initiatives, a robust First Year Experience, the Four-Year Guarantee, and living learning communities. Student body diversity at Cedar Crest increased from 16 percent in 2008 to 37 percent in 2016, with the highest increases in Latino and African American populations.

Prior to Cedar Crest, President Ambar had a successful tenure as vice president and dean of Douglass College at Rutgers University, where she was the youngest dean in the university’s history. Before Rutgers, she was assistant dean of graduate education at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. As an attorney, she worked in the New York City Law Department as an assistant corporation counsel.

President Ambar is a native of Little Rock, Arkansas, and the mother of 11-year-old triplets: Gabrielle, Luke, and Daniel.

Academic and Administrative Program Review

The Academic and Administrative Program Review (AAPR), launched in the spring of 2018 by President Carmen Ambar and Oberlin’s Board of Trustees, is an ambitious, comprehensive examination of Oberlin’s programs and activities.

AAPR seeks to address head-on the challenges facing Oberlin and many of the nation’s top-tier liberal arts colleges and conservatories. It provides a venue and an opportunity to build on the strengths of the college and conservatory, refocusing the entire community on what Oberlin distinctively offers to its students and to the world.

The 31-person AAPR steering committee includes faculty, staff, students, trustees, and alumni. In a message to the Oberlin community, the steering committee wrote that it is committed, among other things, to a process that is authentic to Oberlin’s history and distinctive excellence and broadly inclusive, tapping the full range of Oberlin’s wisdom, creativity, and experience.

Working in cooperation with Oberlin’s regular governing bodies, the AAPR steering committee and its six working groups will gather a broad spectrum of data, information, perspectives, and ideas. From these resources, the steering committee will develop recommendations to be submitted to President Ambar for consideration. These recommendations will address current and future financial needs as well as areas for investment that are authentic to Oberlin’s mission and key to Oberlin’s future.

Benefits Overview

Oberlin benefits include but are not limited to the following:

  • Health Insurance
  • Behavioral Health/EAP
  • Vision
  • Dental
  • Flexible Spending Account (FSA)
  • Medical Leaves of Absence
  • Long Term Care
  • Life and AD&D
  • Open Enrollment
  • Consumer Driven Health Plan

To read more about benefits, please visit https://www.oberlin.edu/human-resources/health-benefits

Application & Nomination

Review of applications will begin immediately, and continue until the position is filled. To apply for this position please click on the Apply button, complete the brief application process, and upload your resume and position-specific cover letter. Nominations for this position may be emailed to Anne-Marie Kenney at amk@spelmanjohnson.com. Applicants needing reasonable accommodation to participate in the application process should contact Spelman Johnson at 413-529-2895.

Visit the Oberlin College & Conservatory website at www.oberlin.edu

Oberlin College & Conservatory is an Equal Opportunity Employer committed to creating an institutional environment free from discrimination and harassment based on race, color, sex, marital status, religion, creed, national origin, disability, age, military or veteran status, sexual orientation, family relationship to an employee of Oberlin College & Conservatory, and gender identity and expression.