Longtime student affairs official named GW’s first dean of the student experience

A longtime student affairs official from Loyola University New Orleans will serve as GW’s first dean of the student experience, according to a University release Thursday.

M.L. “Cissy” Petty, who has served as vice president for student affairs and associate provost of Loyola University New Orleans for about 12 years, will step into the new role in mid- to late-July. She will effectively replace Peter Konwerski, the former dean of student affairs, who resigned from his post in the fall after 25 years of working in student life at GW.

The new dean of the student experience role is part of the University’s overhaul of its student life divisions. Officials announced in January that they would merge the University’s student affairs and enrollment divisions this summer into a central unit coined the “Office of Enrollment and the Student Experience.”

Officials said the new unit – part of University President Thomas LeBlanc’s focus on revitalizing the “student experience” – will centralize most of GW’s student affairs services and alleviate parts of a bureaucratic culture that often leaves students feeling alienated from the University.

“As the university undertakes the creation of a new organization and re-envisions the student experience, there are incredible opportunities to build upon existing strengths to take GW to a level of pre-eminence in the student experience,” Petty said in the release.

Laurie Koehler, the vice provost for enrollment management and retention, who will lead the new student experience and enrollment office, said Petty is a “change agent” who has utilized strategic assessment and planning to accomplish institutional projects.

“Throughout the search process, all of us who came in contact with Cissy were impressed by her commitment to students, her collaborative nature, her ability to think critically about an organization to identify areas of opportunity and growth and by her positive attitude and sense of humor,” Koehler said in the release.

In her post at Loyola, Petty headed a reorganization of the school’s Office of Student Affairs, collaborated on $31 million in campus renovation projects and boosted the diversity of the student affairs staff by 35 percent, according to the release.

Former SA President Peak Sen Chua, who co-chaired the search committee for the new dean, said Petty impressed the committee with both her prior leadership experience in student affairs and her committment to serve as “a student advocate with and for students.”

“With an approach which treats students equitably, we’re looking forward to seeing Dr. Petty partner with our campus community to drive the conversations and action steps on diversity, inclusion and community engagement forward,” Chua said in the release.

Petty previously served as the vice president of co-curricular education and dean of students at St. Lawrence University. She has also held positions in student life at at least three other universities, including the Florida Institute of Technology and the University of North Carolina-Asheville.

Petty also serves on the editorial board for the American College Personnel Association, a student affairs association based in D.C. She’s also a member of the Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice and several other national and international higher education organizations, including the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators.

“I am confident that her collaborative nature and her previous experience with leading change and building teams will help her be successful in this inaugural role,” Provost Forrest Maltzman said in the release.

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