After many turnovers in its administrative leadership, the Office of Black Student Affairs (OBSA) at the Claremont Colleges hired Lydia Middleton as its new dean and director this summer. Middleton comes from the University of Michigan, where she was the Associate Director of New Student Programs.
The last permanent dean was Anya Booker, who served from 2012 to 2014. Claremont University Consortium's (CUC) Vice President for Student Affairs Denise Hayes said that Booker had “resigned to pursue other career opportunities.”
According to Hayes, the search for a new dean began in the spring of 2015 and was conducted by a committee of 7C faculty, students and staff. Middleton, the unanimous choice by the committee, was appointed in early June and began work on July 27.
According to CUC's website, OBSA “supports and enhances the well-being of undergraduate and graduate students of African descent earning degrees at The Claremont Colleges” through programs such as peer mentoring, advising and cultural events.
OBSA has experienced a series of leadership changes in the past few years. In the fall of 2011, Hughes Suffren, who had served as dean of OBSA for eleven years, was replaced by Interim Dean Clayburn Peters. Booker then took over as dean from fall 2012 to Dec. 2014, and Interim Dean James Lincoln served in the spring of 2015.
The OBSA mentor program was eliminated in the 2013-2014 school year during this time of leadership changes, but was brought back in the 2014-2015 school year.
In an email to TSL, Middleton wrote that she plans to make OBSA a supportive resource “by acknowledging the rockiness and making it clear that OBSA is invested in consistency, and demonstrating this in impactful, intentionally crafted services—we have clear goals and expected outcomes for all of our initiatives, that we intend to make visible to the entire community.”
OBSA Head Mentor Paul Carter PO '16 first came to OBSA during his first year to attend its social lunches. His involvement increased during his junior year when he became involved with the Black Lives Matter movement, which utilized the space at OBSA for much of its organization. This is his first year as part of OBSA’s official paid staff.
“I think our involvement is representational of how OBSA has been through peaks and troughs in terms of being effective and efficient,” Carter said. “Last year … I got more involved because there were a lot more black students who were very enthusiastic about being active within OBSA.”
Carter added that students seem eager to support OBSA this year.
Middleton and Latreace Cox, OBSA's new Administrative and Events Coordinator, aim to increase student support in their new leadership roles at OBSA. Middleton wrote that OBSA plans to increase its presence on campus and distribute information through a monthly newsletter.
“OBSA had trouble operating and being a visible presence,” Carter said. “I think a lot of people voiced that they wanted OBSA to be a better resource for them. Now it seems much more stable, and everyone there is cognizant of OBSA being in a transitionary period.”
In an email to TSL, Hayes wrote that services such as the OBSA mentor program will continue to evolve in order to serve the needs of students.
“OBSA plays a significant role in supporting students of African descent and we want that support to be steady, reliable and effective. We believe that Dean Middleton will continue that tradition,” Hayes wrote.
According to Head Mentor Michelle Schultz PO ’16, Middleton and Cox have both gotten off to a strong start at OBSA.
“They’ve been incredible and already have been able to address so many of the concerns we’ve had,” Schultz said. “We’re really excited to see what else OBSA can do.”