As incoming freshmen prepare to begin their new roles as college students, Helen Cannaday Saulny is also preparing for her new role as the dean of freshmen. The Hatchet spoke to Saulny before Colonial Inauguration about her past experiences at the University and her goals as dean.
The Hatchet: How has your position as assistant vice president of Student and Academic Support Services helped ready you to take the reigns as dean of freshmen?
Saulny: I’ve been here over 25 years, and I’ve held a variety of positions since then. I’ve had to work to create a climate so students can enjoy their experiences outside of the classroom as well as inside. Meeting with students, engaging in their lives at the University and really understanding who they are, as well as my history here at the University, has helped me most in preparing for this position.
The Hatchet: What are your primary responsibilities as dean of freshmen?
Saulny: My predecessor [Fred Siegel] did a tremendous job in really meeting with students over food or in the residence halls or at campus activities. I think that is really a great way to meet as many freshmen as possible. One of my main roles is to meet freshmen and have them meet me. What I hope to do is really listen to students and see what it is they’re looking for in a dean of freshmen.
The Hatchet: Are there specific things that Siegel did that you think worked really well?
Saulny: I think the scope of Dean Siegel’s work in terms of understanding what the culture of our freshmen is like has been great. He has done a remarkable job understanding what our freshmen are involved with and what services, activities and academic departments that he feels he needs to partner with to better address their needs.
The Hatchet: Siegel made a point of meeting 1,000 freshmen last year and shaking their hands. What will your signature be?
Saulny: I certainly hope to equal that, but I think I might have to reserve comment on the number. We’re expected to have around 2,350 freshmen, and ideally I’m hoping to meet all of them. Certainly, I hope that freshmen will come up to me and say hello. I’m really more interested with getting to know them as opposed to shaking their hands. I want them to know who I am and where they can reach me. What I thought about was having office hours at least once a week.
The Hatchet: What changes do you hope to make?
Saulny: Being visible, advocating for our students, engaging in their lives, and sharing the transition issues with colleagues across campus is what needs to be continued. Dean Siegel lived on the Vern, but my office will be in Rice Hall on the Foggy Bottom campus. I will have a satellite office on the Vern campus as well. I think this is a great opportunity to see what we are missing, to grow, to partner more with faculty, and maybe introduce some new programs.
The Hatchet: Do you have a message or any advice you would like to give the Class of 2014 before they arrive at GW?
Saulny:: Don’t try and do it all in the first month. Take your time to take it all in. Take advantage of the many resources that are available on the faculty side within the staff and also the resources in Washington, D.C.
The Hatchet: What is your most memorable experience at GW?
Saulny: I know this is broad, but interactions with the students are the best experience. I started here in my early twenties, so I’ve grown up here professionally. The students have really shaped my life as much as I feel as though I’ve been a part of their lives.