Jed W. Wartman, Assistant Dean for Student Activities, likes to say “yes” to good ideas. In his four years at MIT, he says this attitude is what has characterized his work. It’s an attitude he plans to take to his new position this fall as Associate Dean of Student Affairs and Director of Campus Life at Colby College in Maine.
According to Paul J. Spangle, Assistant Director of Student Activities, before Wartman arrived at the Student Activities Office, it “was primarily a place where students came to receive checks and event registration signatures. Jed helped create an office where students feel valued.”
Wartman was originally hired as a Residential Life Associate for Next House, New House, and Random Hall. One year later, he became Assistant Dean for Student Activities, a role he has held for three years now.
Wartman, an alumnus of Bowdoin College, said, “ever since I started working in higher ed, I have wanted to go back to a small New England liberal arts school. Colby presents this opportunity.”
As an administrator in the Student Activities Office (SAO), Wartman has overseen several programs at MIT that work to develop leadership and inclusion.
“We have seen a tremendous growth in engagement of students with our office and partnership with our office. It’s probably one of the things I’m most proud of in the last three years,” he said. “We’ve really become identifiable by the students as a resource and a partner in supporting their ideas and helping them pursue whatever it is they’re trying to pursue.”
Wartman said that getting to know hundreds of students was one of his greatest achievements at MIT. He hopes events that foster leadership development, diversity, and inclusion will be advanced after he leaves MIT.
“LeaderShape, Community Catalyst Leadership Program, the Emerging Leaders Conference, and mc2 [MIT Multicultural Conference] are all massively important programs because they invite and encourage students to explore themselves, learn about others, and reflect on what kind of a world they want to live in and what their role is in creating this world,” he said.
According to Wartman, “these programs allow me to connect with students in a deeper way. By the end of the programs I am inspired, motivated, and comforted by the fact that our students are the next generation of leaders.”
Appreciative students prepared a video tribute to Wartman that they showed at the Student Leader Awards on May 14, put together by Ryan W. Jackson ’10.
In the video, 26 students expressed glowingly positive sentiments about Jed, praising his positive attitude and the fact that his door was always open. They also indicated that they would miss him, and above all, repeated many times, that he was “awesome.”
The students, all friends of Wartman, also answered questions in the video like “What’s Jed’s color?” (orange, because he’s bright; salmon; pink; red, because it rhymes with Jed), and “What’s Jed’s vegetable?” (tomato, for happiness; carrot, for bright colors).
Spangle said he will miss Wartman’s mentorship: “Jed is an advocate, a listening ear, and a friend to all who have had the chance to interact with him, and it is to his credit that the Student Activities Office has become a place of such positive engagement among students and staff.”
Donna M. Denoncourt, Associate Dean of Residential Life, has similar sentiments: “I was lucky enough to work with Jed on LeaderShape, mc2, as well as with student concerns and student successes … I saw in him a leader that is ethical, responsible, caring and committed.”
Another one of Wartman’s undertakings at MIT was the Boston Marathon. “I stood on the sidelines and watched for about eight years. I always knew I wanted to do it, but I wasn’t sure I would be as disciplined at it, as committed to it as I needed to be,” he said.
This year was Wartman’s second Boston marathon, and he’s already making plans for his third next spring. He runs as a cancer research fundraiser, which motivates him through the grueling 26.2 miles: “When I had the opportunity to do it for a cause, I realized that was the right formula because that would hold me more accountable to the commitment.”
The spirit of the race itself is another source of motivation. “Boston’s not a city that unconditionally cheers. Boston’s a city that honks horns, so for 26 miles to have these people cheering, they’re not cheering for you to win, but they’re just cheering for the human spirit,” Wartman said.
He is grateful not only to the Boston community, but to members of the MIT community as well: “I love that I see MIT students out there, too. Every year I’ve gotten some wonderful cheers of support and encouragement from MIT students.”
Professionally, Wartman says the departure to Colby is the right move for him, but it is still a difficult change personally. In a position where students are at the center of his work, Wartman is grateful for the people he has connected with: “MIT students don’t just accept ‘No, we can’t do that.’ The MIT community is trained to figure out how we can do that and so I’ve had to embrace that as well. I’ve been challenged and learned to start from a place of yes in terms of ideas that come in the door and make it happen.”
Wartman and his wife Brynn are purchasing a house in Maine, and will be making the transition from renting apartment-dwellers to homeowners.
Wartman said that the search for a replacement would begin soon, hopefully to be filled by September, and that in the interim, Philip J. Walsh, Director of the Campus Activites Complex, would oversee SAO.
Wartman advises his successor, who has not been chosen yet, to encourage communication and stay student-centered. According to Wartman, MIT is “truly a place where you don’t know what question or idea is going to come through the door, and that’s exciting.”