Sitting Down with Roseman

Courtney Helt ’16, Contributing Writer

Three weeks into her presidency, The Dickinsonian sat down with Nancy Roseman to find out how she is settling in, her view of Dickinson, and her main focus for the first few months.

Courtney Helt ’16: What drew you to Dickinson?

President Nancy Roseman: I got [a] phone call [about the position of president when] I just got home from England…It was a little disorienting and the phone rang and it was someone who had contacted me off and on for many years [about the office], and even when I was in England, and I had been very picky about sticking my nose into opportunities. So she called me and I guess I said to her ‘I haven’t even unpacked my bags, I don’t want to talk to you right now.’ My mindset was not there; I had just come home from being away for two years. Thinking about a [new] job was not what I was thinking about. And I just hung up and she called me back and she said ‘you really need to look at this, I mean it.’ And so she convinced me to do…I started reading about the curriculum and useful education and this really pragmatic approach to the liberal arts and it started resonating with me. And I saw a place that was doing something that made a lot of sense to me as an educator, as an administrator. I started reading about the curriculum and saw all the interdisciplinary work that was being done… As I got deeper and deeper into it, I saw a place that had a philosophy and expressed it, and actually followed through with action. It’s one thing to say ‘we’re sustainable’ because a lot of schools would say they believe in sustainability, [but] you start reading about Dickinson and it’s really integrated into the curriculum. And I was just really impressed with the integrity of the college. As a president, you’re kind of giving yourself over to the institution and it had to be an institution I felt totally at one with. I need to keep my own integrity intact. Dickinson walks the walk. Anyone can talk and make claims. But to actually do what you claim is completely different. And Dickinson did. And my impression has remained the same.

Helt: Do you remember the first time you were on campus?

Roseman: Oh, absolutely. It was September. I said to Lori, “Let’s go see it. Is this a place we can live?” I went when school was in session because I wanted to see the campus with students. It was a Wednesday and we could smell the farmer’s market. There was the Dickinson farm stand, incredible local food… nice people who recognized right away we were strangers and weren’t from here. I took a walk around campus, took a tour, like we were students. The next day I stopped at the admissions office and said I had a niece who wanted to take a tour but she lived far away and wanted me to stop by and get materials. But there wasn’t a tour scheduled, and I said, “I really want a tour.” So there was a tour guide hanging around and I guess she was from Massachusetts…she took me on a great tour…I just remember I went to the HUB, and everyone was so happy and friendly and greeting each other… The place just kind of bubbles. It was just happy, just people doing their thing, and lots of energy.

Helt: So, in your first year here, what is your primary focus?

Roseman: Getting to know Dickinson, people who work here, the faculty, students, alumni, and having them get to know me…start getting a sense of what Dickinson’s priorities need to be…like financial aid efforts to make sure Dickinson is more affordable for the students who want to come here. And that’s getting harder and harder as the income divide gets wider in this country and the cost of educating people goes up. It’s hard because it’s about highly trained and highly educated people, faculty, working with the students. When people say why is it so expensive to go to a place like Dickinson, it is because labor costs never go down… Residential life is not as good as it should be. The dorms need work. We have seniors living all over town…We need to build dorms or modify old dorms to be as sustainable as possible…And most important is creating a social space. We bring young people here every year and we want to make sure they have places to hang out and meet each other…meeting people from a different walk of life than you’re used to. That is more important than anything you’ll learn in the classroom. And making sure the faculty have the resources they need to do their work, because they are full of ideas and programs. They’re constantly looking at what they teach, ways they teach, and trying to improve it. So it’s getting to understand the place and getting to know Dickinson.

Helt: Anything else you want to share with me?

Roseman: Just that I’m looking forward to getting to know the college through people’s experiences. It’s hard because I have this crazy calendar… So I guess the message is, I’m out there as much as I can be, it’s very important to me. And I just look forward to seeing people as I randomly go to events and I encourage them to say hello…And just for them to help me understand Dickinson.