Dear Denison Students,

Welcome back! I hope that you all were able to recharge and connect with your families and friends over the break. I enjoyed my time away. I spent my break catching up with friends and family members, as well as binging on Netflix shows. I also listened to some great podcasts, including Dolly Parton’s America, which was recommended by a colleague, and Defining Greatness by John Maxwell. I highly recommend you listen to them both. But most importantly, I used my time away to reflect on my transition into my role in the Denison community, as well as all of what we achieved together last semester.

As we enter another semester, I want to offer a few reflections based on my first semester at Denison. Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to be part of some great universities. I arrived at Denison with high expectations that have been exceeded. This is a great university. I am proud to be a Denisonian and grateful to be part of this community. I would offer the following reflections:

  1. We are fortunate to be on a campus where faculty and staff are fully committed to students and where students have access to so many resources. As you navigate the semester, I encourage you to access the many resources and opportunities available to you: tutoring, counseling, financial coaching, speakers or events, faculty office hours, lectures, workshops-the list continues!
  2. We all get to be the architect of our own Denison experience. The opportunities are here but you need to step up and take advantage of them. I encourage you to intentionally design your Denison experience through the organizations you’re part of, the workshops you attend, or the leadership roles you take on. (Side note: Spring is a time when we recruit for student leaders for the next academic year (Res Comm CAs, Admission Docents, RED Corps Fellows, orientation leaders, etc.). We strongly encourage you to reflect on how you might like to engage and lead within our community next year.
  3. We are all Denisonians. Coming off a national election, and in a world that sometimes feels divisive, it’s important to remember we’re all Denisonians, in this battle against COVID-19 together. Denisonians care about and support one another.

I think one of my biggest reflections from fall was about our need to connect with one another, even in the middle of a pandemic. That was a challenge in fall and sometimes we stayed in our offices or residence hall rooms too much. This semester I encourage us to engage and interact in person as much as possible. We need to continue to build community and connection. Invite a classmate to lunch. Ask the apartment across the hall to come over for a game night. Invite a professor or staff member to grab a coffee. Sit with a student you don’t know in the dining hall. Challenge the floor below you to a sand volleyball game (once it gets warmer!). All of these things can be done safely by following COVID-19 guidelines. Student Life will also host opportunities to help students connect and engage with others more frequently this semester. Even in the midst of a pandemic, Denison is a place where we support one another, we engage, we connect, we build relationships, we take advantage of the opportunities before us.

During last week’s inauguration, poet laureate (and one of my former students from Harvard) Amanda Gorman said, “There is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to BE it.” This semester, find a way to be that light for others—whether it’s through a wave or hello across the quad, a kind deed, or a word of encouragement when a friend is feeling stressed. Living in a pandemic isn’t easy, but we can all be a light for others to make it a little easier.

Over break, I also took a great deal of time thinking about how my colleagues in Student Life and I can continue to carry out our goals and priorities for the year as well as our commitment to you-our students. Over the semester we will continue to update you on our progress. As we launch into spring semester, I want to share some key updates:

  • Two weeks ago, we welcomed a new Director of Campus Safety, Dave Rose. Dave comes to us from a long career at Ohio State. He is looking forward to engaging with students, listening to your ideas, insights, and input. In fact, he has already begun meeting students, faculty and staff. He’ll be attending many student org meetings in the coming weeks. If you’d like him to attend your organization meeting or set up a meeting with him, please reach out to Dave directly at You’ll be hearing more from Dave directly next week.
  • Previously, Residential Communities and Student Housing were two separate offices. We have reunited them as one department. Carianne Meng has been appointed to the Director of the reunited office. You’ll hear more throughout the semester about a new vision for Residential Communities & Housing.
  • Over the break, we said farewell to Dean of Student Leadership and Community Engagement Erik Farley and Phoebe Myhrum Bentley, Director of Religious & Spiritual Life/University Chaplain. Erik accepted an incredible opportunity to be Senior Vice President of Equity and Inclusion for YMCA of Central Ohio where he will continue to be a source of positive change in our community. Phoebe has decided to step down from her role to have more with her family. We wish them both the best. This Spring, we will have a number of search committees for these and other roles. As we did in the fall, students will continue to play an important role, both serving on the search committee as well as being engaged in the on-campus interview process.
  • Your feedback in pulse surveys was critical to our success in the fall. You’ll continue to receive pulse surveys this semester, along with other really important institutional surveys that we ask you to engage with. Denison is a place where we take you feedback seriously and work to improve the student experience based on your responses. When asked, please take time to provide your input and insight.
  • A significant piece of feedback you shared in the fall was wanting more ways to caringly hold each other accountable without going straight to the “blue whistle.” Res Comm created a short video (How to Be an Upstander During COVID-19) and we encourage you to watch. Denison is a community where we care for one another, and even in holding one another accountable, we want to do so in a respectful and kind way.
  • One of the biggest pieces of news is that we have continued to make progress on the design of the new Wellness Center. Juniors and seniors will remember that the design has been largely informed by student voice through RED Corps and architect research in 2018-2019, and we have continued to infuse student input into the new center. We will have a more formal announcement (and renderings) later this Spring. We think you’ll be excited!

Based on feedback you shared throughout the semester and in the December pulse survey, Student Life has created some exciting programming this semester. One event we’re especially excited about is UPC hosting Trivia in Silverstein on the first Tuesday of each Month, in homage to Moe’s trivia (for new students, Moe’s BBQ held epic trivia nights that are greatly missed). I’ve included a list of some events to look forward to below, and as always, if you have ideas for events you’d like to see on campus, reach out to

I am so excited about the semester ahead. I hope the start of the new calendar year brings a great deal of excitement for you as well. While I was able to meet with many of you in the fall, there are more of you that I hope to meet this spring. Please be sure to invite me to your campus events and meetings this semester. I am eager to continue to get to know you all.

Welcome back!


Some Upcoming Events

  • First Year Friday: activities, snacks, grab and go, trivia and a scavenger hunt
  • SuperBowl Watch Party
  • Trivia Apocalypse
  • De-Stress Events (with therapy dogs—back by popular demand!)
  • Fraternity & Sorority Recruitment
  • Vail Virtual Concert with American Spiritual Ensemble “The Power of Spirituals”
  • Virtual “take and make” events including vision boards and hand lettering workshops
  • MLK Day service projects
  • Religious & Spiritual Life Unity Service
  • Service activities throughout the semester
  • Black Student Union’s Black Love Week
  • Iceless Skating Rink
  • WinterFest
  • Lunar New Year
  • Tuesday Trivia at Bandersnatch
  • Pop up coffee shop at Moon Hall
  • Traditions like Aestevalia, Doobiepalooza, and Culture Jam
  • Fresh Check Day
  • Food Trucks
  • Late Night Breakfasts

Events to Engage (less social)

January 27, 2021