This shopping period, the English department has one less administrator and one less jar of chocolate Hershey’s Kisses to comfort students.
Ruben Roman, English undergraduate registrar for eight years, left the post in October to become assistant registrar of the University. Ever since, administrators in the English department have been working longer hours and exploring ways to fill the gap. Students said they miss Roman, too: all six English majors interviewed said they think back fondly on the days when they could stop by the office and chat with Roman about their classes or their personal lives.
“Ruben’s departure definitely took a toll on the general feeling of camaraderie,” said Catherine Nicholson, assistant director of undergraduate studies for the English department. “He was a genius at creating that sense of connection.”
Director of Undergraduate Studies for English Amy Hungerford has selected someone to take the undergraduate registrar’s position, she said, but she is not sure when or if that person will get the job, since the hiring process is now in the hands of Human Resources. She said it is important to find a replacement who will make the office fun and welcoming, just as Roman did.
Roman said he tried to listen to students as an “older friend” instead of as an administrator, and he encouraged students to pursue non-academic activities, often attending his students’ plays or concerts with his wife. He said he hopes his replacement will also take an interest in students’ lives, adding that he misses his interactions with students “terribly.” His new office is in 246 Church Street.
“Giving your time is an important factor in establishing relationships with the students,” he said. “Treating all of their issues as important and offering feedback to them is very helpful in maintaining that energy which I found was missing upon my arrival.”
Until a new undergraduate registrar joins the office, Hungerford and Nicholson have doubled their office hours, and English Graduate Registrar Erica Sayers has been coming in on weekends to complete the work she and Roman used to share. Hungerford has also begun sending periodic emails to English majors as Roman used to, and she offered pay for senior English majors to take shifts at Roman’s old desk during shopping period, to answer students’ questions and calm the atmosphere in the office during the hectic beginning of the semester.
Riley Ford ’11 and Elizabeth Deutsch ’11, who have taken shifts, said a steady stream of students enter every day with questions about course requirements.
For Rachel London ’12, the seniors at the desk could not make up for the absence of Roman.
“They didn’t seem to know anything,” she said, “and I had to figure it out by myself.”
Nicholson said she and Hungerford are also making permanent changes to maintain and expand upon the sense of community Roman helped to create, establishing events on holidays for English majors and improving faculty advising. About 30 English majors celebrated Halloween with a reading of “The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe and treats, Nicholson said, and around Valentine’s Day faculty and students will team up to read Chaucer’s “The Miller’s Tale.” She said these events should allow students to socialize among themselves and with faculty.
“[These events] certainly can’t replace [Roman], but we do hope they help to give students some of that sense of warmth and welcome that always existed around Ruben’s desk,” she said, adding that the events were in the works before Roman’s departure.
While these events put faculty and students in a large social setting, Hungerford said she also wishes to improve the fruitfulness of students’ individual meetings with their advisors. For the first time last fall, she asked juniors to write a short statement about courses they have taken and possible senior essay topics to help their faculty advisors get to know them.
Roman’s promotion was a part of a reorganization of the Registrar’s Office, and Roman is now part of the team focusing on student services.