Upon learning of her appointment as the new Dean of Students, Jennifer Elliott, Instructor in History and Social Sciences, was overcome with mixed emotions of excitement and nervousness, anticipating the challenges offered by her new position.
“I would say that other feelings that quickly followed were real gratitude and humility in terms of just the emails from colleagues and students who gave me their best wishes. I felt so grateful for their support. I’ve created a little file in my mailbox so that hopefully, in the harder moments, I can go back to those things and remember that people have faith in me right now,” said Elliott.
Head of School John Palfrey announced Elliott’s appointment as Dean of Students in an email to the Andover community on Friday, November 21.
In her new role as Dean of Students, Elliott hopes to tackle the issue of “well-being” on campus.
“Well-being speaks a lot to stress management and thinking about how to manage the really high expectations that we impose on ourselves. [I want] to think through how we can use that [stress] in a more productive way,” she said.
Elliott hopes to partner with the Wellness and Empathy Committee of the Strategic Plan, who is also focusing on issues of stress and well-being of Andover students.
“I’m ready and eager to hear specific recommendations that [the Wellness and Empathy Committee] has for the Dean of Students Office, so I’m just getting myself in position to be pretty flexible, responsive and adaptive to those recommendations,” Elliott said.
In particular, Elliott looks to work with Amy Patel, Medical Director, and Carol Israel, Director of Counseling at Graham House, to draft a program that educates students about health and wellness in order to combat the pressure and stress placed on students.
By analyzing, adopting and adapting models of health programs at peer schools, Elliott hopes to create an alternative to the current Personal & Community Education (PACE) course.
“There are so many qualities of PACE and so many topics that get addressed that are super important and worthwhile, and I would just say that I want more. I want more regular interaction, and I want more teachers and faculty involved, if possible,” said Elliott.
“I think [teaching students about wellness] is at the center of being able to do anything else that we want to do. It’s like basic maintenance, and I want to prioritize that and give more time to it,” she continued.
Elliott said her biggest concern in transitioning from being a teacher to the Dean of Students is becoming disconnected from students.
“To lose that access and that interaction with kids would not only be really hard on a personal level for me, but I also think it would be hard to do a good job [as Dean of Students] without it,” said Elliott.
Elliott aims to maintain a sense of accessibility and comfort with students by hosting munches at the Dean of Students’s house or even opening up the Dean of Students Office to students during conference.
“I try to be a pretty accessible person in general in terms of feeling friendly and someone kids feel comfortable talking to. Part of that I hope is instinctive, and kids will feel like I’m an adult on campus that they can come talk to,” said Elliott.
Looking ahead, Elliott expressed concerns about not having enough time to devote to her many passions on campus, including teaching history, coaching Girls Varsity Squash and working with the Girls’ Leadership Project (GLP).
“For me, trying to maintain my role in the classroom is going to be really important, in terms of just being able to have contact with students on a regular basis. I know for my health and well-being, getting regular exercise and being able to teach are two things that really keep me going,” said Elliott.
“I think, more than anything, [I’m] trying to figure out what to give up… I would love to be able to maintain both [teaching and coaching]. Mr. Murphy’s given me good advice that it doesn’t make sense to coach and teach at the same time, so perhaps I’ll end up coaching in the winter and teaching in the fall and spring,” she continued.
Elliott said that while it will be difficult to balance teaching and coaching with her responsibilities as Dean of Students, she hopes to continue to do both. She also hopes to continue to work with GLP. According to Elliott, spending time with the girls in the mentorship program is crucial to her.
“My work with [GLP] is at the core of what I think about all the time. I’m trying to figure out how to partner with other faculty members to share in the fun there … I love being able to work with the girls, so I wanted to make sure that I still have access and time with them,” said Elliott.
Until she assumes the new position on July 1, 2015, Elliott will continue to be the House Counselor of Stowe House, to teach History and Social Sciences, to coach the Girls Varsity Squash Team and to serve as the Dean of Abbot Cluster.