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O'Dair Will Serve as Assistant Dean for RCA Starting in June

By Orli G. Bahcall

Katherine G. O'Dair, assistant director of student activities at Tufts University, has been selected as the new assistant dean for residence and campus activities. O'Dair will assume her position on June 1.

The dean's role is to be as a "close adviser to the students in helping them develop their organizations, particularly the government organizations," as well as maintaining and improving the financial structures, O'Dair said.

She "struck me as someone who is very willing to take the initiative to go out and attend student events," said Andrew J. Rhomberg G, a student member of the selection committee. She "is very eager to see what is happening on campus, and not someone who just stays in her office."

O'Dair received a bachelor's degree in communication from Miami University in 1988 and a master's degree in education, student personnel and counseling from Northeastern University in 1991.

She brings her experience from Tufts University to her new job. "One thing Ihave done at Tufts is to have informal lunches, talking about a number of topics, where students can just come and talk about a topic," she said.

Formal student leadership training is also high on her priority list. Students always come away from these leadership programs so much more prepared to lead the groups, O'Dair said. She would also like to see forums at MIT where student leaders can get together and discuss issues of mutual concern.

O'Dair will spend her first week on the job attending the Leadershape conference. She hopes to spend the summer getting oriented to MIT's systems and operations, preparing for the next academic year, and "meet[ing] as many people as I can," she said.

The position was vacated when former Assistant Dean for RCA Susan D. Allen left to become dean of students at Roxbury Community College earlier this year.

O'Dair receives first taste of MIT

The student forums at which the three dean candidates were introduced "were very valuable I learned about some of the problems and procedures that frustrated students," she said.

Students expressed the problems with how things run at MIT - not in a negative or confrontational manner - but by presenting what "was going on campus, and asked how can you help us."

When O'Dair questioned students as to what things at MITwork well, she did not receive a direct reply, "only a lot of pausing." Still, she is "sure that there are things that work well," and is interested in hearing what these issues are.

O'Dair also met with a variety of administrators in RCA and around campus that she will be working with next year. "I met a lot of interesting people, it was a very good experience and Ireally look forward to working with all of them."

"I am very excited about this new position, and I think I can bring a lot of good ideas to MIT."

Forums help represent students

The final three candidates- Rebecca A. Chavez, Jeanne M. Maguire, and O'Dair - were selected from an initial pool of 200.

"Each has slightly different strengths, things that make them particularly suitable for the job," said Rhomberg. "I am very happy that [O'Dair] will come; I think she will make a good RCA dean."

Rhomberg felt that the forums were successful both because most student opinions were represented and the candidates got an idea of what they will face at MIT, he said.

Associate Dean for RCA Margaret A. Jablonski, who made the final decision, "was very open in listening to what students were interested in and what they had to say," Rhomberg said.

Jablonski "sat down and talked to the students at meetings, [asked] what they expected of the position [and] ensured that whoever really wanted to give a comment had the opportunity to do so," he said.

"It would have been nice if more people had shown up," to the forums, but it was impossible to run the forums any other way, Rhomberg said.

RCA gave us a lot of liberty in organizing the event and inviting the candidates on the behalf of the students. The student forums "gave an important message to [the dean candidates] that we were given an active position in the whole process," Rhomberg said.