Konwerski to lead student life offices

by Sarah Ferris

Dean of Students Peter Konwerski speaks during the annual Martha's Marathon housing auction in February. Konwerski will assume the title of Senior Associate Provost and Dean of Student Affairs.
Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo
Dean of Students Peter Konwerski speaks during the annual Martha's Marathon housing auction in February. Konwerski will assume the title of Senior Associate Provost and Dean of Student Affairs.

One of the most recognizable faces in Rice Hall will assume the highest ranking position in student life next year, the provost announced Friday.

As senior associate provost and dean of student affairs, Peter Konwerski, a three-time alumnus, will take the helm of student life resources related to extracurriculars, career services and health and wellness – following the retirement of Student and Academic Support Services’ long-serving senior vice president, Robert Chernak, in June.

“I look forward to working to implement the vision Provost [Steven] Lerman has laid out to continue enhancing the GW student-academic experience, particularly as we head into an exciting period of growth and transformation at the university,” Konwerski said.

Reporting directly to Lerman, Konwerski will oversee offices such as the Center for Student Engagement, Student Health Service, the University Counseling Center, the International Services Office, the Office of Veteran Services and the Office of Parent Services.

Konwerski will report directly to Lerman, eliminating the middle step in managing student affairs.

He was promoted to dean of students in May 2010, during the department’s last major reconfiguration prompted by the retirement of Linda Donnels. The University’s student life arm was then clustered into several areas – including academic success as well as health, education and prevention – to better coordinate services between each office.

Konwerski has spent two decades at GW in roles ranging from founding and directing the Office of Community Service to managing the Marvin Center.

Konwerski's new role, Lerman said, contains “essentially the same portfolio” as it does now.

“Peter has been a part of the university community for many years and will continue to serve an essential role in guiding our efforts to effectively support our students in their non-academic pursuits,” Lerman said in a letter to staff April 20.

Lerman said the University considered an external search for the position but ultimately decided on Konwerski because the position did not require a major shift in roles for the dean of students, who has extensive ties across the University.

“Day-to-day, students will see very little direct effect. The same units that provide services to students will still be there,” Lerman said. “In the long term, it’ll allow us to be a little more strategic about how to better integrate academics and the non-academic side of the student experience.”

The reorganization will also affect offices for admissions and athletics, which will now report directly to the provost.

Chernak has a history of overseeing athletics programs and steered the year-long strategic planning process that in February laid out a five-year plan for ramping up the University’s commitment to athletic teams and wellness programs.

Under the new structure, Athletic Director Patrick Nero will report to the provost.

Lerman said having both student life and academic leaders “at the same table” will enable more coordination to meet broader needs of students.

He added that the restructuring of Student and Academic Support Services is part of a “natural evolution to try to integrate more functions that had previously been separated between the student affairs and academic affairs office.”

Lerman’s office will launch a national search for a leader of GW’s new enrollment management division, an office that will integrate undergraduate and graduate admissions and financial aid to better keep tabs on full-time students toward staying under a city-imposed student population cap. While he hopes to fill the position by the time Chernak leaves, Lerman set a deadline of the fall.

In the interim, Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Planning Forrest Maltzman will oversee the enrollment group.

Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion Terri Harris Reed will also see an expanded role in student affairs. In addition to advising University staff and faculty on issues related to underrepresented populations, Reed will soon oversee the Multicultural Student Services Office, Student Academic Success, Disability Support Services and the Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service.

Reed said she already collaborates with staff from many of these departments and will work to facilitate greater coordination between the offices.

“My role at GW is to make sure the GW community thrives by being diverse and by challenging each of us to thrive in a diverse community," Reed said. "Linking these units together will help facilitate our progress toward these goals."

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