Leanna Barlow, a residential tutor and academic adviser at Harvard College, will serve as the next dean of Silliman College, Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway announced Monday.
Barlow, who has been a sophomore adviser at Harvard College’s Winthrop House since 2014, was introduced Monday evening in the Silliman dining hall. Shortly afterward, Holloway sent out a formal announcement introducing Barlow to the Silliman community.
Barlow will succeed Jessie Hill, who is set to become inaugural dean of Benjamin Franklin College in the fall. Although Barlow will formally assume her position on July 1, her active work at Silliman will not begin until early August, Holloway said.
According to Head of Silliman College Laurie Santos, who chaired the dean search committee, Barlow was selected from a pool of over 100 candidates.
“Dr. Barlow has shown an impressive commitment to advising and mentoring students from a variety of perspectives,” Santos said. “It’s clear she’s going to work hard to make sure that Silliman is an inclusive environment in which students from all backgrounds can flourish.”
In addition to her professional background, Santos said Barlow is an “incredibly warm” person whom the search committee immediately loved.
Barlow graduated summa cum laude from the University of Massachusetts in 2004 with a Bachelor of Science in public health and social justice. She received a Master of Public Administration from Cornell University’s Institute for Public Affairs in 2008 and a Ph.D. in politics from Brandeis University, where she taught a variety of courses in the Politics Department.
Along with providing premajor academic guidance to Harvard undergraduates, Barlow served as lead tutor for Winthrop’s Consent Advocate & Relationship Educator program, Winthrop’s lead first-generation tutor and its lead BGLTQ specialty tutor. According to Holloway’s email, before advising at Harvard, Barlow served as an adviser to students at Brandeis University, many of whom were the first in their families to attend college, and facilitated workshops in study skills, campus resources and healthy relationships.
“The fact that she has experience working closely with students in crisis was a huge bonus from my perspective,” Holloway told the News. “I also like the fact that she is familiar with the challenges that first-gen students face on campuses like ours.”
Holloway noted that he was struck by Barlow’s experience with issues related to sexual assault and sexual harassment. Although she will still need to learn the specifics of Yale’s processes when it comes to the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct or the SHARE Center, Holloway said, Barlow will not have to learn how to navigate the “early moments that precede entry into a formal system.”
Holloway said he selected Barlow for the position after the nine-member search committee — composed of faculty members, administrators, a college fellow and four Silliman students — made a recommendation to him. He added that Barlow was chosen from a “very talented final group of candidates” who visited campus in early April. David Caruso, special assistant to the Yale College Dean, said Barlow’s appointment was decided last week.
Barlow will be joining Yale with her partner, Elizabeth Angowski, and their 5-year-old dog Walter. Angowski is a doctoral candidate in the study of religion at Harvard. Her current research focuses on poetic narratives popular in Tibet, Bhutan and Nepal.
Santos said she is thrilled that Barlow is coming to Yale with a family that is “really excited about residential life.” She added that Barlow and her partner already have experience living on campus with students and will quickly immerse themselves in all parts of the Silliman community.
Over the past several years, Silliman has seen a number of leadership changes, as the Santos-Barlow administrative pairing will be the college’s fifth in the last five years. Last May, former head and associate head of college, Nicholas and Erika Christakis, stepped down after a controversial email spurred student protests in fall 2015. Santos was appointed head of Silliman one month later. Hill was appointed Silliman dean in April 2014 and announced her decision to take up the deanship of Benjamin Franklin College last December.
Luwei Xiong ’20, a freshman in Silliman, said that frequent leadership changes “surely affect” the relationship between students and Silliman leadership. She added that she had just gotten to know Hill and will now have to spend additional effort getting to know the new dean.
Other Silliman students interviewed said the turnover, while not ideal, has not negatively affected the Silliman community.
“As far as changes in leadership go, I think Silliman is a resilient, tightly knit community that will be very welcoming to Dean Barlow though we will all miss Dean Hill dearly,” David Glaess ’19 said.
Omeed Ziari ’19 said that while Silliman students have a broad range of perspectives on recent leadership changes, the community looks forward to welcoming Barlow and shares a commitment to making Silliman an “inclusive space for everyone.”
Students also said they were excited about Barlow’s appointment and eager to get to know her.
“I spoke with her very briefly during the reception at the [head of college] house after the announcement and she seemed lovely,” Simon Custer ’20 said.
And Glaess said he thinks Barlow will be a “great fit” in the Silliman community.
In an email to the News on Monday, Hill expressed enthusiasm for Barlow’s appointment.
“I hear lovely things about Dean Barlow and look forward to meeting her and supporting a smooth transition in every way I can in support of Silliman,” Hill said.
Hailey Fuchs contributed reporting.
This post was updated to reflect the version that ran in print on April 25.