Former Dean of Students Curt Lauderdale, who began his tenure at Lawrence University in 2001, officially left his position on Jan. 7. Lauderdale’s role at the university shifted throughout the years: first he was a Residence Hall Director in 2001, then an Assistant Dean of Students in 2008, next an Associate Dean of Students in 2014, and finally, he assumed the position as the Dean of Students in 2015.
Reflecting on his work at the school, Lauderdale is proud of helping to shape the projects for the construction of the Sage and Colman lofts that prioritized varied housing options, as well as his role in changing the LUCC election process: shifting from one that elected students based on their residential address to the current class-based election system. This allowed LUCC work to commence earlier in the year and for people involved in campus study programs to participate in the organization.
“When I think about my time here and think about how it has felt, it’s felt chaotic,” Lauderdale said.
Lauderdale attributes this chaotic feeling to the ever-evolving life on a college campus. Despite returning to the Dean of Students position yearly, the dynamic on campus shifts and the atmosphere changes, as a quarter of the population alters each year. He explained that in a constantly changing world, a new class of students entering the community can be affected by both the returning students and a mixture of the occurrences throughout their city, state and world at large.
An alumnus from the class of 2001, Lauderdale knew he wanted to work in the realm of student affairs due to the impact members of staff from that division had on his campus life as a student. Lauderdale said that, while he did not initially plan to work at Lawrence, the opportunity to work as a hall director with the ability to see and contribute to the institution in a different manner than he could as a student presented itself. Particularly, Lauderdale notes the unique appeal of working as a hall director in Residential Life due to the opportunity it provided to learn new things in the position despite no longer being a student.
“This idea of Lawrentians as lifelong learners, whether we say that in jest or not — there’s some truth to it,” Lauderdale said.
After four years of graduate school in Washington, DC, Lauderdale returned in the summer of 2008 to work as the Assistant Dean of Students when the Campus Life office was on the cusp of formation. The idea of being able to return to an important place to him and increase engagement with student activities such as LUCC and Residential Life was both a compelling and fulfilling experience for Lauderdale.
When he became the Dean of Students in 2015, Lauderdale’s goal was to be present with whomever he was with and to ensure each situation was regarded as a potential opportunity for change. He wanted to assure students that he was willing and available to listen and help them through obstacles, often by being visible on campus, eating in the dining hall and attending athletic events and conservatory performances.
When in non-student spaces, Lauderdale said it was his aim to be a student advocate. He wanted to ensure that the student perspective was being introduced when in meetings with other faculty, staff and departments. Moreover, he noted that while being a student advocate did not necessarily translate into the automatic granting of students’ requests, it meant acting as their representative in spaces where they were absent.
Concerning his decision to leave Lawrence, Lauderdale stressed that the decision was an immensely difficult one. The decision to move to the University of Wisconsin-Madison provides an opportunity to work in academic advising, student orientation, career services and student services in a way that he has not at Lawrence. The new position also enables him to be closer to his two brothers in Madison and professionally build out and expand on another part of his portfolio in case he wants to work in a Vice President role in the future.
Although Lauderdale hopes his successor will make the role their own, he stressed that the next Dean of Students should see their job as a chance to be a chief student advocate and highlight their experiences and perspectives in the places they cannot be physically present.