There is a fresh face guiding freshmen this year.
George Levesque stepped into the newly-minted post of assistant dean of freshman affairs just over two weeks ago, taking on a position that was created last spring to oversee the academic and social affairs of the freshman class. The new position, which was first recommended in the 2003 undergraduate curricular review, combines duties previously held by Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg and Dean of Academic Affairs Mark Schenker.
Levesque, who left the Berkeley College deanship in July after five years, said he is excited about the prospect of being the first to occupy the new post and hopes to spend the upcoming year evaluating existing programs for freshmen and gathering ideas from students and faculty on how to improve them.
“My biggest goal is to learn and gain some ideas from students and others,” Levesque said. “I’d like to do a lot more meeting with students [and ask], ‘What do you wish Yale had done your freshman year?'”
The need for Levesque’s position emerged when the recommendations of the academic review began to be implemented. In the last two years, the University developed a new freshman seminar program and began an overhaul of freshman advising.
“I was pretty overwhelmed with everything I was doing,” Trachtenberg said. “I wasn’t complaining or threatening, but it just seemed very relevant and easy — to make it an organic whole, to put the orientation and the counselors together with the advising.”
Trachtenberg and Schenker still will work closely with freshman affairs.
“I’ve integrated the freshmen with the student affairs and vice versa,” Trachtenberg said. “I deal with security, I deal with the police, I deal with alcohol … all of those things include freshmen as well.”
The new position encompasses both academic and student affairs, so Levesque will report to Trachtenberg and Schenker. Although his job involves academics, Levesque will not have any oversight of the Directed Studies and Perspectives on Science programs.
Last spring, before the position was filled, Trachtenberg organized this year’s pre-orientation programs and freshman orientation and Levesque said he has been shadowing her during the last two weeks of freshman orientation and freshmen counselor training. He will be directing all the planning for freshman programs next spring, he said.
Yale College Dean Peter Salovey said he hopes the new position will enable the University to expand its freshman seminar offerings — which have grown to 21 in the last two years — and to enhance the integration of freshman programs.
“There are academic issues and there are student life issues,” Salovey said. “I want integration and synthesis of those.”
Though Levesque said he is excited to be involved with the freshman class as a whole, he said he will miss the more intimate role he played in students’ lives as a residential college dean.
“It’s not clear to me yet how often I will be meeting with freshmen in a direct way,” Levesque said. “Clearly it’s going to be a change for me personally, in that I won’t have as much day-to-day contact with students.”
Berkeley freshman counselor Sarah Stumbar ’06 said she will miss having Levesque as a dean, but she said she thinks he is a good fit for the new position.
“I think that more than anything he brings an understanding of how important it is in your freshman year to find a place where you’re really comfortable and how to integrate freshmen into the college,” Stumbar said.
Kevin Hicks replaced Levesque as Berkeley dean in a year that has been marked by unusually high turnover in the residential college deanships. There are four new deans this year: Craig Harwood in Davenport, Alexandra Dufresne in Morse, Amerigo Fabbri in Pierson, and Paul McKinley in Saybrook.