Under the new leadership of Dean of the College, John McKnight, the Haverford College Dean’s Office has undergone dramatic staffing changes, filling both new and existing positions. After taking over for Interim Dean of the College, Joyce Bylander, in the summer of 2021, McKnight was excited to hit the ground running, and this involved hiring new staff to help him do so. When asked what he looked for during the hiring process, McKnight expressed, “I’m always looking for people who are equally as… invested in the success of students.”
When asked about how he feels about leading his new coworkers, Dean McKnight expressed, “It can feel a little daunting at times… but mostly what I feel is very excited to welcome these new colleagues.” He cares deeply about providing them with the support they need to succeed at Haverford, and he noted that bringing new people into the fold will allow the office to take a step back and reassess what is working and what is not. He feels confident that his new staff will make an impact at Haverford because of a shared commitment to students: “All of us choose this profession because we want to see students flourish and thrive.”
With many of these hires having begun work at the College just this winter, The Clerk sat down with some of them to discuss their role in the Office, their goals for that role, and how their past has prepared them to be successful here at Haverford. In our first round of conversations, we spoke with Sara Abbazia, Program Coordinator for the Center for Career and Professional Advising (CCPA); Drew Adair, Assistant Director of Experiential Learning and Diversity Initiatives for the CCPA; and Jodi Mulhall, Director of Student Engagement and Leadership. Stay tuned for future highlights of new and existing members of the Dean’s Office staff.
As Program Coordinator for the CCPA, Sara Abbazia leads communications and social media initiatives for her office, running the CCPA’s social media accounts, sending email blasts to students about CCPA events, such as Fords on Friday, and operating the CCPA blog. In addition, Abbazia is a career coach and advisor. She is currently employed reviewing resumes submitted by students to the CCPA, and she is hoping to begin drop-in student advising meetings soon.
Despite graduating college less than two years ago in 2020, Abbazia noted that she feels prepared for both aspects of her role. She spent much of her quarantine reviewing resumes for her friends, neighbors, and various personal clients, so she has lots of experience in this realm. Her previous experience as a Career Fellow at her alma-mater Connecticut College also has prepared her, as she assisted fellow students on resumes and cover letters.
Outside of helping students with their resumes, Abbazia has three main goals for her new role in the CCPA. First, she hopes to improve turnout and engagement at career-centered events. Secondly, she wants to encourage younger students to start thinking about their careers earlier and meeting with her and other staff in the CCPA. She noted that it is important for first-years and sophomores to meet with the CCPA because it makes their job applications easier and is “never too early to start [your career planning].” Additionally, building relationships early with members of the CCPA can be helpful to students. Finally, she hopes to update the CCPA blog.
As Assistant Director of Experiential Learning and Diversity Initiatives for the CCPA, Drew Adair’s job combines two roles. First, he has a traditional advising role within the CCPA as a career and an internship advisor. In addition, Adair’s position has a mandated outreach component to connect BIPOC and FGLI students with campus resources and Haverford alumni.
Adair, a birthright Quaker, feels prepared to take on both of these roles due to his background in student affairs, both at the college and independent school levels. He cites his position as Director of Student Life position at Rockefeller College at Princeton University as his preparation for his advising role, and his work as the Director of the Office of Diversity at Friends Seminary, an independent Quaker school in Manhattan, as preparation for working on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives. His previous experience also includes work as the Associate Director of Student Development at Macaulay Honors College of CUNY.
Adair expressed that in all of his previous roles, he had one primary focus: making sure that “all programs and initiatives were equitable for all students, that all students felt that they were welcomed and safe and had access to every resource that was available to every other student.” He continued, “That’s one of my primary goals here is to make sure that happens as well.”
Along with this most significant goal, Adair talked about a few of his other plans for his new role in the CCPA. Mainly, he hopes to use the outreach mandate given to his position to increase communication with underrepresented student populations, such as BIPOC and FGLI students. He noted that he has already begun to work toward this goal by emailing student leaders in these communities. He hopes to follow up with those leaders and begin working on student-centered programs and initiatives which focus on community and career issues deemed important by these students. He emphasizes the personal importance of this goal to him, expressing, “Ever since I took on leadership positions as an undergraduate… I’ve understood that there needs to be real substantive advocacy for students and for me… that’s what sparked the passion.”
As the first occupant of a new role, Director of Student Engagement and Leadership, Jodi Mulhall has a variety of responsibilities. She is in charge of Haverford’s mainstream student engagement offerings. She is an advisor and support network for Student’s Council and other student leaders and has leadership positions within the committees for Customs, Haverfest, and Senior Week, among others.
Mulhall’s previous work in higher education in California has seemingly prepared her for this role. After graduating from Bryn Mawr College in 2006, she began working in colleges, spearheading the founding of a Justice and Equity Center and a paid, for-credit internship program focused on social justice and educational equity at one place where she worked. It was after this work that she knew she had found her calling in higher education, as she felt like she was “making an immediate impact.” She is excited to bring her ideas, specifically for co-curricular engagement, to Haverford: “I genuinely believe in the power of co-curricular engagement… to produce meaningful learning experiences.”
As she steps into her new position, Mulhall aims to lift the burden on student leaders and previously overworked staff in the Dean’s Office by picking up some of their existing overflow work. She also wants to increase the accessibility of student engagement events and student leadership positions. Mulhall hopes that access to these opportunities will allow underrepresented students to “really become the leaders and the influencers of campus culture.”
Possibly Mulhall’s most important goal is to bring a DEI perspective to her position, a mainstream space, to show students that “Haverford is eager to have these kinds of topics available for all students… that they are a priority.” In this vein, she hopes to work on leadership development, intergroup dialogue, and skill-building, specifically with underrepresented students. She also wants to create a year-long emphasis on communication with new students through Customs and other programs to promote a more inclusive campus culture.