10 Questions News

10 Questions with Dean Weissbach, New Dean of WQS Cluster

Jennifer Weissbach, a sports veteran and enthusiast, recently joined the Andover community as the new Dean of West Quad South Cluster. Weissbach was a former Director of Residential Life at the Hill School and held the position of Head Coach of Varsity Field Hockey for many years. As a strong advocate for a healthy residential community, Weissbach is eager to meet and connect with new people during her first year at Andover.

Why did you decide to become the Dean of West Quad South Cluster? What influenced you to take on the role? 

I was excited to join a new community. I came from the Hill School, which is a boarding school in Pennsylvania, where I served as the Director of Residential Life, so residential life, boarding, and dorms are really important to me. 

You mentioned how the community influenced you, where do you take inspiration from and what influences you? What are some of your core values? 

What matters most to me is building a space where students feel like they can be their authentic selves. I value belonging, connection, and care above anything else. Where I found community in my life has certainly been in my various athletic teams. I was a three-sport athlete in high school and I continued to play field hockey at Dartmouth College as a four-year member of the team there. For me, athletics has been a very natural way to find my community, but in my work here at boarding schools, I really want to be able to utilize dorms and houses as a source of building that connection and building that belonging. 

How would you describe your job to students? Is there anything you would like to tell them or would like for them to know?

I want students to know that I’m here — in the simplest moments, and also in the most complicated moments. I want students to know that I will show up for them, I will advocate for them, and I will also hold them accountable when a mistake has been made. I would describe my role as the support person for all things related to residential life, and that’s both for house counselors and for students. I can be a resource for them and help them navigate the ups and downs of the school year. I also hope that Proctors and Prefects can lean on me in both moments of challenge and positive moments. I really love working with student leaders and I have appreciated getting to know them.

As the new Dean, what are some ideas that you have to improve the community of West Quad South? 

That’s a great question and also a difficult question because students have only been here for about a week. Before I’m interested in changing anything, I’m excited to learn more about the community. I’m excited to learn about what’s going well and to see where there might be opportunities for us to engage with students more. I think for me, my pitch for students in WQS as a whole is to show up for munches, to come say “Hi,” and to make The Barn a special place to hang out. Ultimately, I want to be someone that students can rely on to show up for them when they need me. 

What is something about WQS or Andover that you love so far? 

I love the people, and what I love about those people is they show up as who they are. I think it’s really special to be part of a community where people can feel safe and comfortable to be who they are. For me, it’s been awesome to see so many people, faculty, staff, students, employees, everyone from so many different backgrounds and so many different experiences come together and want to be part of this community.

During your time here, what is something unique about Andover that you’ve noticed?

What feels unique to me is despite how big of a school it is, it feels small and I’m hoping that it’ll get smaller for me as I get to know more people. The size is definitely unique for an independent school, especially a boarding school, and so how Andover makes such a big school feel like a small, tight-knit community is pretty impressive. I would say the fact that the school is organized into clusters, you really get to know the students and faculty in your cluster well. All-School Meetings, where we’re able to get every single student into the same building is incredible… For that many students to be able to fit in one place every single week is awesome and I think it’s a great opportunity to help build community. I value community because I value the people in the community. The culture of the community is incredibly important and so I’m excited to learn more about the culture here at [Andover] because I’m still relatively new. 

You mentioned that you played field hockey and you’re coaching Girls Varsity Basketball this Winter. What do you love about these sports? 

Field hockey and basketball are very different. For me, field hockey is certainly a love and a passion because I’ve played it for so long and I’ve made some best friends, had some great teammates and great teams throughout the years. With basketball, there’s something special and unique about the small size of the team and the opportunity to build deep meaningful relationships within that small team. I just love that and wouldn’t change that for anything. I always feel like I’ll be an athlete at heart and at my core but what I love about athletics so much is the ability to work with a group of people towards a common goal. There’s nothing in my life that has been able to replace that yet. 

What’s your favorite place on campus? Do you have any go-to locations?

I don’t know because the weather hasn’t allowed me to explore as much as I want to. I’m hoping that The Barn, which is the hangout space in West Quad South, will become like a social hub for people to hang out. I really like sitting out in front of the library. It’s kind of cool to see people walk by and say “Hi.” I’ll shout out the Dean’s Office because I love working with the other Cluster Deans and Dr. [Susan] Esty, our Dean of Students and Residential Life. We have had some really good times there. So let me know if there’s other places I should be hanging out because I haven’t explored them all yet. 

What are some of your favorite things to do outside of Andover?

When school is in session, I’m pretty much here a lot, but outside of Andover, I moved up here with my partner Sabrina. We love to travel both within the [United States of America] but also international travel is a huge passion of ours. We love to read, we love listening to music. I would say I have a great group of family and friends in the area so being with them is something I really enjoy. 

Do you have any advice for the community? 

I have two pieces of advice. One would be: be who you are at your core because people will love you for who you are, not for who you think you should be. My second would be to ask for help when you need it, in all different areas. So whether it’s academics, athletics, in the dorm, things going on at home, whatever that is, ask for help. We have people here who literally dedicate their lives to helping you, so reach out and ask for help whenever you need it because there’s always going to be someone who is willing to listen and offer support for you.