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Student Activities Get New Coordinator

By Satwiksai Seshasai

CHAIRMAN

Tracy F. Purinton, coordinator of programs in Boston University’s student activities office, has been selected as the new Program Administrator for Student Activities. Purinton will assume her position on June 26.

“This is a very exciting time” to come to MIT to work with student activities, Purinton said.

“She’s very well qualified and has a lot of experience with respect to student activities as well as MIT,” said Jennifer K. Chung ’01, president of the Association of Student Activities and a member of the search committee.

Purinton’s background

Purinton graduated from Middlebury College in 1993, earning a degree in American Civilization with a concentration in History. She later served as Assistant Director of the Public Service Center at MIT, but left in order to pursue a degree in higher education at Harvard.

After graduating in 1998 with a Master’s degree in Higher Education, Administration Planning and Social Policy, she assumed her current position at BU.

Purinton’s arrival is part of MIT’s effort to increase support to student activities. “The area of student activities has grown over the past few years,” said former Assistant Dean for Student Life Programs Katherine G. O’Dair. “We’re a lot farther than we were four years ago.”

Currently, student groups rely on both the Campus Activities Complex and the Office of Residential Life and Student Life Programs for support. “For [student groups] not to have one point person would be annoying,” said Purinton.

According to O’Dair, Purinton will aim to “bring the entire student activities team together.” Her position was created when O’Dair accepted the position of Assistant Dean for Residential Programs.

“I think it’s a good sign that the administration has created a position with the sole job of looking at student activities,” Chung said. “Whether it means they’re also ready to look at some other things on our wish list, like increasing funding or renovating Walker, remains to be seen.”

As one of four coordinators of programs in the Boston University’s student activities office, Purinton has been responsible for advising 70-80 student groups as well as campus-wide events such as homecoming and an international fair.

O’Dair believes that Purinton will have to adapt to a different structure at MIT. The BU system is more bureaucratic, while MIT’s system is more of a resource than administrative, she said. “The ASA serves a role here that at most places is administrative.”

One of Purinton’s proudest accomplishments at BU has been the advancement of formal student leadership training. She was also involved in the creation of MIT’s LeaderShape program.

Purinton will spend the summer months meeting student leaders and determining the goals and resources for her job. “It’s nice to have a few months to get a feel of the place,” she said.

Appointment is temporary

Purinton’s position is officially a one year appointment, instead of a long term assistant dean position. O’Dair said the one year limit was necessary because the permanent Dean of Student Life and Associate Dean of RLSLP have yet to be selected and must be involved in shaping the new position.

“The one year appointment scared some applicants away,” O’Dair said. “It’s going to be very important to work very hard [in the next year] to define what student activities need” before creating a permanent position, she said.

Purinton is very confident that she will stay at MIT for more than a year. “I don’t think the position will disappear,” she said.

Search process abbreviated

The search process was shorter than normal and concentrated on local candidates, O’Dair said. Advertisements soliciting applicants were placed in The Boston Globe and other Boston-area newspapers.

Of the 20 applications, the search committee, consisting of O’Dair, Chung, and CAC Assistant Director for Programs Ted E. Johnson, chose to consider three finalists. Each finalist met with the committee, RLSLP staff members, interim Dean of Student Life Kirk D. Kolenbrander and former Associate Dean of RLSLP Andrew M. Eisenmann ’70.

According to O’Dair, Purinton’s appointment was overwhelmingly approved by everyone she met. “We had three very strong candidates,” O’Dair said. Purinton’s experience with student activities and her knowledge of specific issues such as contracts distinguished her from the other candidates, O’Dair said.