Dartmouth College announces changes in administration

Sian Beilock is the 19th president of Dartmouth College, taking over from Phil Hanlon last month after six years as president of Barnard College in New York City. “I really want to be a place where we can talk across differences,” said Beilock during an interview with Frances Mize, of the Valley News, at Parkhurst Hall in Hanover, N.H., on Tuesday, July 11, 2023. “Being uncomfortable is part of how we learn.” (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Sian Beilock is the 19th president of Dartmouth College, taking over from Phil Hanlon last month after six years as president of Barnard College in New York City. “I really want to be a place where we can talk across differences,” said Beilock during an interview with Frances Mize, of the Valley News, at Parkhurst Hall in Hanover, N.H., on Tuesday, July 11, 2023. “Being uncomfortable is part of how we learn.” (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

Sian Beilock talks with Dartmouth College students during a lunch event to meet the new president on campus in Hanover, N.H., on Wednesday, July 12, 2023. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Sian Beilock talks with Dartmouth College students during a lunch event to meet the new president on campus in Hanover, N.H., on Wednesday, July 12, 2023. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

By NORA DOYLE-BURR

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 08-16-2023 5:10 PM

HANOVER — Dartmouth College’s new president has announced a series of leadership changes, including the creation of the position of chief health and wellness officer, and a September event focused on mental health.

The college has launched a national search for a chief health and wellness officer, President Sian Leah Beilock wrote in an Aug. 9 letter to the college community.

The new position will act as an adviser to Beilock on health and wellness issues affecting students, faculty and staff, and will oversee the Dartmouth Health Service, the Student Wellness Center and employee wellness.

“For many years, as institutions, we put physical and mental wellness to the side,” wrote Beilock, who began work at Dartmouth on June 12. “At Dartmouth, we will bring it to the fore.”

The college announced last week that it will host the current surgeon general and his six living predecessors for a discussion on mental health and wellness on Sept. 28. at 1 p.m. in a tent on the Lord Hall lawn on Tuck Drive. The free, public event also will be livestreamed.

Beilock is scheduled to be inaugurated on Sept. 22. A cognitive scientist, Beilock came to Dartmouth in June after leading Barnard College beginning in 2017. She replaced President Phil Hanlon, who retired in June after a decade at Dartmouth’s helm. The meeting of surgeons general will be one of the first major events during her tenure.

“Our community has suffered devastating loss to suicide, and that is why we need to be having these hard conversations,” Beilock said in the online announcement of the event. “This discussion is intended to galvanize the medical, academic, and policy establishment to take a hard look at what is happening in our communities and help us advocate for — and implement — meaningful interventions that can save lives.”

At least two members of the Class of 2024 died by suicide in the 2020-21 school year, their first year at Dartmouth. In the wake of their deaths, their friends and families expressed concerns about the college’s approach to mental health, particularly amid pandemic-era restrictions before vaccines were available widely, which required isolation to prevent transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19. One of the students, Elizabeth Reimer, died at home while on leave from Dartmouth, and her friends and family pointed to the college’s medical leave policy as a mental health challenge.

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Following Reimer’s death, the third untimely death that year of a member of the Class of 2024, the college announced plans to bolster support for students’ mental health and relaxed some pandemic restrictions.

Sam Gawel, a member of the Class of 2023, died by suicide on campus last September. The anniversary of his death will be one day before the event with the surgeons general. Gawel’s death came within weeks of that of Joshua Watson, a member of the Class of 2022 who was at home on leave. Watson’s cause of death was not clear.

The college has made changes to its mental health supports in recent years, including hiring additional counselors, giving students access to a free subscription to the Headspace meditation app and offering teletherapy services through mental health provider Uwill.

Dartmouth plans to launch a strategic plan this fall aimed at addressing the mental health of students, including a new policy for Time Away for Medical Reasons, which predates Beilock’s tenure and which students have identified as an area in need of improvement, according to the surgeons general event announcement.

In other leadership changes, Beilock announced that Executive Vice President Rick Mills, who has served as the college’s chief administrative, business and operating officer since 2013, is leaving to become CEO of the United Educators insurance company.

“Rick’s love of Dartmouth was clear the moment I met him and I’ve benefited from his wise counsel and appreciated his warm welcome,” Beilock wrote. “United Educators is lucky to have him.”

Mills’ responsibilities will be redistributed to multiple leadership team members.

Jomysha Delgado Stephen began her new role as executive vice president for strategy and special counsel to the president on Aug. 1. She previously held a similar position at Barnard. At Dartmouth she oversees human resources, safety and security, compliance, and equal opportunity, accessibility and Title IX.

Stephen, who grew up in New York, holds a bachelor’s degree from Barnard and a law degree from Columbia. She worked at Barnard for 20 years, taking on increasing responsibility, first as general counsel, then chief of staff to the president and finally as Barnard’s chief administrative and legal officer.

Her projects at Barnard included leading a career support network for students and graduates, holding communitywide discussions on Barnard’s transgender admissions policy and spearheading the college’s pandemic response leadership team.

Josh Keniston has been promoted to senior vice president for capital planning and operations. As such, he will oversee the school’s physical plant and operations, with “a renewed focus on housing and child care,” Beilock wrote. He also will be the point person for the college’s North End Housing project, which aims to construct two apartment-style residential buildings on Lyme Road to house approximately 400 students.

Beilock also announced two newly configured advancement positions. Bob Lasher, whose online biography describes him as the chief staff member for Dartmouth’s recently concluded $3.77 billion Call to Lead campaign, will serve as senior vice president for university advancement. In that role, Lasher, a 1988 Dartmouth graduate, will focus on Dartmouth-wide initiatives and support the president’s engagement with alumni, parents and trustees.

Ann Root Keith, the college’s chief operating officer for advancement and a more than 20-year veteran of the college’s advancement program, will serve as chief advancement officer on an interim basis while the college undergoes a search for a permanent person to fill that role, which includes strategy development.

Also promoted as of Sept. 1 are Justin Anderson, senior vice president for communications, and Lee Coffin, vice president and dean of admissions and financial aid.

“In addition to his current responsibilities focused on undergraduate admissions, Lee will partner with our graduate and professional schools to help develop enrollment strategies that enable Dartmouth to reach the best and brightest students across the globe,” Beilock wrote.

If you or someone you know might be at risk for suicide, contact The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7 at 988.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.