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Trujillo Named Dean for Alcohol Education

By Rima Arnaout


MIT has announced the creation of a new Associate Dean for Alcohol Education and Community Development in response to suggestions by working groups on improving alcohol policy on campus.

Daniel A. Trujillo, Alcohol Coordinator for the State University of New York, will fill the position effective January 1. He will report directly to Dean for Student Life Larry G. Benedict, reviving the work of the Alcohol Working Group and coordinating across many Institute and student groups.

Trujillo said that his job is to “listen, collaborate with people, and put something in practice that will be accepted and welcomed by all members of the community.”

“We were looking very much for the kind of person who would fit the climate of MIT right now,” said Director of Organizational Performance and Human Resources Laura Capone, who chaired the search committee for the new dean.

New dean to tackle range of issues

As Associate Dean, Trujillo will coordinate interaction between many MIT offices, not only for alcohol education but also for other community issues like mental health.

One aspect Benedict stressed was that Trujillo was “not just an alcohol dean. That’s why the community development piece is part of the title.”

“This is a position that’s going to cut across all of our living groups,” Benedict said. “It’s not just fraternity oriented but Institute-wide.” Trujillo will also work with the Graduate Student Council.

Trujillo will work with Residential Life and Student Life Programs staff, Campus Police, MIT Medical staff, the Dormitory Council, and other groups across campus, Benedict said. His responsibilities will include addressing anonymous medical transport and town-gown relationships with Boston and Cambridge.

Specific goals to be determined

While he has a broad area of responsibility, the dean’s specific goals are yet undefined and will be refined when he comes to MIT. Rather than coming to MIT “with a set of fixed strategies that must be implemented,” Trujillo wants first to figure out what is needed and to understand the MIT culture.

“Decisions without student input can be ineffective or inadequate, and then they’re of no value,” he said.

When asked to identify policies he sees as needing special attention, Trujillo focused on MIT’s potential to be proactive in dealing with alcohol issues. “MIT is going into an important next phase” with student development issues, Trujillo said. “Steps that are being taken by people there right now. I hope to be a part of that.”

Trujillo feels that overcoming the stigma of having problems will be important to helping students. “When you're working in a setting of excellence like this, one of the things that makes it even more of a challenge is when you talk about health issues,” he said.

“For the most part college students make very smart decisions when it comes to alcohol, so we're not trying to demonize drinkers,” Trujillo said. “All we're really doing is promoting the health that's already among the students.”

Working group led to position

The idea of creating a dean to handle alcohol education and community development first arose from the May 1998 report from the Working Group on Dangerous Drinking, chartered in the aftermath of the drinking death of Scott S. Krueger ’01 at the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity.

Specifically, the report called for “an administrative professional position, with major authority, visibility, and responsibility to address alcohol-related issues” to be established “within the Office of the President or another senior administrative office that is senior to the various office involved. This official would be responsible for developing, coordinating, and implementing educational programs” about dangerous drinking and related issues.

A later alcohol working group supported the creation of the position, according to Benedict, but, as Capone explained, the group’s work was suspended last year in anticipation of the new dean. The working group had come to a point when the new dean’s input would be needed to proceed further, Capone said.

Trujillo chosen after long search

MIT hired a professional recruitment firm to search for potential candidates, but the first three finalists selected in the spring were deemed unsuitable for MIT. The firm was then given a behavioral competency model outlining the skills and qualities MIT required in an associate dean for alcohol education, like the ability to forge consensus and involve the right people in decision-making.

The search firm turned up five candidates who met with Benedict. Two, including Trujillo, were invited back for a full day of interviews with the search committee, Undergraduate Association and Graduate Student Council representatives, and staff from RLSLP and MIT Medical.

Students preferred Trujillo to the other finalist, Capone said, and Trujillo’s broad approach to student success “made him a winner” to Capone.

“In his interview [Trujillo] didn’t mention alcohol. What he talked about was student success,” Capone said. “I could see that the kind of things he does would be helpful for our community.”