New William Smith Deans Outline Vision

By Elise Donovan ’22

Herald Contributor

As of July 2018, two out of the three William Smith deans will have stepped into their roles within the past few months.

However, despite being new to William Smith administrative roles, both Assistant Dean Kelly Payne and Assistant Dean Lisa Salter are far from inexperienced. Both Dean Payne and Dean Salter bring their experiences of teaching and advising at HWS, as well as their understanding of leadership roles stemming from their own pasts.

Dean Salter has held myriad roles in HWS over the past 10 years. Whether that be as a coach for William Smith athletics, a member of the HWS counseling staff, a teacher in the first-year seminar program, or as a visiting faculty member in both the Religious Studies and Psychology departments, Dean Salter has made space for everything during her time here. As a new dean, she will preside over the classes of 2019 and 2021, as well as act as a liaison from the Dean’s Office to William Smith Congress. By right of office, she will also serve as part of the Committee on Global Education and Committee on Standards.

Coming to the position with more than 10 years of teaching and administrative roles under her belt, Dean Payne holds vast wisdom to impart on all students who walk into her office. Dean Payne has also taught aspiring professionals, those interested in American and African Culture, as well as first-year students in their obligatory seminar courses. Dean Payne holds a B.A. from Saint Mary’s College (Notre Dame, and an M.A. and a Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She also holds her graduate certificate in 19th century studies. In addition to her work in the Dean’s Office, Dean Payne works as the advisor for the Laurel Society, William Smith’s sophomore/junior honor society, as well as an administrator on both the Committee on Individual Majors and Committee on Athletics, by right of her position as a William Smith dean.

Dean Payne spoke of her transition and colleagues within the Dean’s office saying, “I was eager to join the William Smith Dean’s office after visiting during my interview —so many talented faculty, staff, and students who seemed genuinely invested in the life and learning that happens here.”

She praised the HWS community, saying she “noticed right away how much attention was paid on campus to the mission around ‘lives of consequence.’ Like many of the students I have worked with over the years, I want to do work that challenges me intellectually and that matters to others.” 

She spoke of her love of reading, as well as her hobby of collecting stories, but also her love of hearing about and experiencing the lives of others. In reference to her vision for William Smith moving forward, she continued to look at it from the perspective of a reader: “I have been reading the 1912 Pine yearbook (for research related to an event), and in it, the class of 1912 (the inaugural William Smith class) write that what they see in the college is ‘the opportunity to know each other intimately and to (be) united in helping to form the spirit of the college… to live and expand.’

 “I want our students to experience something similar—to learn and expand their ideas, to get to know other students who are united in the drive to be educated. There is power in receiving an education, power students can act on.”

It was no surprise that Dean Lisa Kaenzig P’22, William Smith Dean, had similar hopes for all future William Smith classes. She also looked to the past for advice for the future, “Each day, I work to make sure that William Smith College continues to be a place where every student feels that she can reach her full potential and that each student has the support needed from all of us on campus to reach her ‘next step’ in the path to graduation and beyond.

“I also want to make certain that all students feel connected to our very powerful history and traditions that go all the way back to the Suffrage movement in Seneca Falls in the late 1800s and to our present and our future. And, we want to continue to work with our colleagues in Alumnae Relations to engage with our thousands of William Smith alumnae so that they continue to feel connected to this special place and to our current students.”

Dean Kaenzig shared the opinion of Dean Payne, saying the transition could not have gone any smoother. Part of the smooth transition was due to the “decades of experience that they each bring to their roles” in the Dean’s Office. Dean Kaenzig expressed her gratitude for the other members of the Dean’s Office. She said that due to her extraordinary assistant, Gretchen DeWall, and the wonderful student workers she “could not be happier with our very talented and hard-working new deans and fantastic team.”

One challenge, Dean Kaenzig said, revolves around the idea that it takes time to build strong relationships with students, as well as become and remain a strong presence on campus, but that this is in the interest of the deans.

Dean Kaenzig said that by assigning specific roles to herself as well as Dean Payne and Dean Salter, they can work to diversify their relationships with students. These such relationships can be formed with Dean Kaenzig serving as the advisor for the Public Leadership Education Network and Hai Timiai, the senior honor society; Dean Payne as the advisor for the Laurel Society, William Smith’s sophomore/junior honor society; and Dean Salter as the liaison for William Smith Congress, the student government body for the college.

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