SASS restructures department, names new dean of students

Following the retirement of long-serving Dean of Students Linda Donnels, GW alumnus and University administrator Peter Konwerski will take the lead of a restructured arm of Student and Academic Support Services.

The changes are the first phase in a realignment of top administrators and their duties in preparation for the arrival of the University’s new provost – Steve Lerman, who will start in July, said Senior Vice President for SASS Robert Chernak.

“There is going to be continued refinement in the University’s organization,” Chernak said. “It’s setting up a foundation for the future for when Steve Lerman takes over.”

Konwerski said he is gearing up to fill big shoes, following Donnels’ retirement after 30 years as dean of students.

“I think we’re all trying to make it a better place for the Colonials,” Konwerski said of the changes to SASS.

Konwerski said he plans to revisit issues important to student life, including the way Student Judicial Services deals with student violations of the Student Code of Conduct and the Alcohol Medical Amnesty Program.

“We know there are challenging issues that college students face – alcohol is one of those issues,” Konwerski said. “We want to be proactive, we want to be aggressive. We want to be as intentional as possible when addressing those issues so that when they come up, our campus is prepared to deal with it.”

Students will be included in discussion of changes to policy, Konwerski said, noting that he will meet regularly with Student Association president Jason Lifton.

“You need all of those stakeholders [students, faculty and staff] around the table to say, ‘Hey, what is something that we want to evaluate or change?'” Konwerski said. “There is student involvement in making those decisions when they come up.”

Chernak said the reorganization will allow SASS to focus on providing support to students.

“Now we have a clustering of all the services that provide support, counseling and health administration,” Chernak said.

This “clustering” also means promotions and changing of roles for a number of administrators and brings programs like Colonial Inauguration and the Guide to Personal Success Program together under the same arm of SASS.

“The concept is, where there are functions that have synergy among them, to have them be in the same reporting structure,” Chernak said. “This will allow offices to collaborate more, whether it be in residential life or academics.”

Other administrators will also change roles. Former Assistant Vice President for Student and Academic Support Services Helen Cannaday Saulny was promoted to associate vice president and dean of freshman, replacing Fred Siegel. Siegel will move to the role of associate vice president and chief administrative officer while administrators settle into their new roles. Chernak said he is optimistic about the changes and what they could mean for the University over the next few years.

When asked about the cost of the reorganization, Chernak said he would not know until the restructuring is complete.

“My hope is that we can continue to improve the quality of life here,” Chernak said. “We have a lot of ideas on how we can build on what we have here and make this a good experience for students.”

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