Harvey Mudd College hired Leslie Hughes as the new associate dean of students in April 2014. Hughes serves as the college’s Title IX coordinator, oversees residential life, provides student support and proctor and mentor training and deals with student conduct issues along with Ivan Wong, chair of the Disciplinary Board, and Angela Wong, chair of the Judiciary Board.
Hughes, a native of Traverse City, Mich., had 10 years of experience working in student affairs when she applied for the position of Associate Dean of Students. She received her bachelor’s in art therapy from Indiana Wesleyan University and her Master’s of Education and Student Personnel Administration from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Before her position at HMC, she worked as the assistant dean of students at Salem College.
Hughes is enthusiastic about working at the college.
“It sounds so cliche, but I have not ever worked with students as cool as Harvey Mudd students,” Hughes said. “They are natural problem-solvers, they’re very reasonable, they are brilliant and humble all at once.”
Hughes is “definitely connecting with the students,” Stephanie Young HM ’18 said. “For example, in the beginning of the year, she made a point of going around and talking to everyone about sexual assault prevention.”
The search process for a new associate dean of students began in fall 2013, when a search committee was formed. Members of the committee included Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Maggie Browning, Assistant Dean of Residential Life Michael Edwards, Associate Dean of Student Activities Chris Sundberg and Associate Dean for Student Wellness Qutayba Abdullatif.
The committee also included six students. Three student members were proctors—a role similar to resident advisers at other colleges—for the 2013-2014 school year, while one member, Travis Beckham HM ’15, had just been chosen as a proctor for the 2014-2015 school year.
“Dean Leslie’s incredible poise and ability to truly listen, understand, and respond quickly and thoughtfully put her on a level above the other candidates immediately in my mind,” Beckham wrote in an email to TSL. “She has a presence that simultaneously puts you at ease and emanates confidence which makes it easy to trust her and take her advice.”
Browning discussed the various roles an associate dean of students must encompass.
“We looked for someone who made a good connection with our students, who was excited by the idea of working with an honor code system and the strong system of student self governance that we have in place here,” Browning said. “I wanted someone who also had a strong background in student affairs but was willing to take that and use it in new ways. Someone who was going to take a cookie-cutter approach to student affairs was just not going to work.”
Hughes said she is focusing on immersing herself in the culture of the college and wants to get to know the students she will work with.
“I have no goals to really change the community, my goals are just to support it,” she said. “I do see some need for systemic support within the proctor positions. I’m looking at what that means and what that would mean for Harvey Mudd. “
Browning expressed her approval of the work Hughes has accomplished so far.
“She’s fantastic,” Browning said. “She’s been a perfect fit. She’s enthusiastic, energetic. I think the proctors absolutely love her; they love working with her, she’s fit into the team perfectly.”