Dr. Léna Crain Joins the Denison Community
With more than a decade of experience in higher education, Dr. Léna Crain has joined the Denison community as the Associate Dean of Students and Director of Community Values & Conflict Resolution, formerly known as the Office of Student Conduct & Campus Values.
Before coming to Denison, Crain served as the Special Assistant to the Director of Student Conduct at the University of Maryland, where she earned her Ph.D. In addition to her experience in student conduct, Crain has held roles within fraternity and sorority life, senior experience programs, residence life, and admissions.
In reflecting on her decision to come to Denison, Crain shares “First, I love the type of learning that liberal arts colleges promote, and I knew I wanted to return to this type of community. Denisonians are intellectually curious, thoughtfully express questions and ideas, and are attuned to movements from the campus to a global level. That’s me as an educator, too.” She also appreciates the size of our community, which creates opportunity around relationship building.
Crain’s conduct philosophy and practices are heavily shaped by restorative principles emphasizing relationships and community impact to shape positive change. With a deep appreciation for liberal arts education and the learning that residential communities foster, she is excited to be part of a community where she can work collaboratively and creatively to encourage the learning and development of students.
Crain adds, “Conduct work sometimes has a stigma. I like the work because it’s an opportunity to connect students’ values and behaviors to their goals and futures. It also builds the foundation of a community.”
Denison’s desire to include more restorative practices helped draw her to this role. She explains that restorative practices view wrongdoing as an offense against both an individual and a community, rather as a violation of a campus policy. By taking formal procedures out of the process, individuals can come together to directly address and resolve harm. Crain shares, “While that is difficult, powerful work, it can transform relationships and quality of community life. I like conduct work because it’s an opportunity to connect students’ values and behaviors to their goals and futures. It also builds the foundation of a community.”
A month into her tenure at Denison, Crain has been out and about the campus, meeting students and campus partners. Students express gratitude for the approach, insight, and perspectives Crain brings to her work.
After his conversation with Crain, DCGA President Francis Ngoy ‘19 reflects, “One thing I recognized from the start is that she put the students at the center. She believes in transparency between both the students and administration. I look forward to the collaboration between her office and DCGA.”
Ngoy encourages fellow students to reach out to and to get to know Dr. Crain and work with her in making a positive impact on our campus culture: “Dr. Crain is a great resource for all students, and she is excited to be part of the Denison community. I ask all of you to join me and welcome Dr. Lena Crain to our Denison family on the Hill.”
In addition to a new conduct leader, the name of the office has also changed. Crain shares that the new name Office of Community Values and Conflict Resolution reflects what we hope we represent:
“The Code of Student Conduct and other policies reflect Denison values and allow accountability for the individual and community…The big difference moving forward will be a focus on restoration and empowerment with skills. There is a cultural aversion to healthy conflict, but with it, we can answer complex questions: How does one resolve dissonance with fairness and compassion? How can we understand, forgive, and restore? How might we build a community where all members feel recognized and valued?”
In addition to a new department name and a new leader, Denison’s conduct program also benefits from a new location—Huffman Hall—where Léna and her team will establish a hub for restorative practices. This work will closely align with our residential nature and focus on community-building within residence halls. Because physical spaces relate to how we build relationships, express creativity, and carry out ideas, having the new center in Huffman will allow Denison’s conduct program to engage with the community in a different way.
As for the year ahead, Crain's first goal is to get to know people, traditions, context, and expectations. Impressed by Denison’s warm and welcoming community, she is especially excited for students to return to campus in a few weeks. As she looks toward long-term goals, she wants to shift the work and the perception of the office from reactive to proactive and to refresh community energy around restorative practices.
Some interesting facts about her? Crain majored in International Studies during college, travels extensively, and is fluent in French, speaks intermediate Spanish and Lithuanian, and enjoys learning about and experiencing cultures, having traveled to over forty countries on five continents. An avid reader, she is currently going through a pretty earnest historical fiction phase. In addition, she enjoys sports, both as a spectator and participant, and getting outside in the woods and water.