COURTESY OF TRACYANN WILLIAMS
The Assistant Dean’s Office at Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) — currently composed of four deans for each class and transfer students — will introduce a new position to the team: the Assistant Dean for Student Support and Success.
Laura Auricchio, dean of FCLC, announced in an email sent to Fordham faculty on Jan. 17 that the newly created position at Lincoln Center will be filled by Tracyann Williams, Ph.D. Williams will officially start on Feb. 5, according to Auricchio.
Williams is coming to FCLC from The New School in Lower Manhattan, where she currently serves as the Director of Academic Affairs in the Bachelor’s Program for Adults and Transfer Students. The New School is also Auricchio’s former place of work before she was appointed to replace the Rev. Robert R. Grimes, S.J., in April 2019.
Auricchio made it known that she and Williams crossed paths at The New School; Williams reported to her for three years during their time together. However, she told the search committee for the new position, “Although I knew her and liked her, I don’t want that in any way, shape or form to influence their decision making.”
Auricchio said she was very pleased to hear that Williams had ended up at the top of the search committee’s list.
The search committee for Williams’ new position was the same committee that conducted the search to fill the position of Assistant Dean for First-Year Students, previously held by Joseph Desciak, appointing Conor O’Kane to the role on Dec. 17.
Chairing the committee for both searches was Assistant Dean of Sophomores Mica McKnight. According to McKnight, the search began in October 2019.
The search committee was large, comprising eight committee members, including Fordham faculty and staff from a variety of departments. Auricchio said she wanted to involve a great portion of the administration in order to capitalize on the new position’s holistic aspects.
Although the position was created under Frederick Wertz, Ph.D., while he was serving as the interim dean, Auricchio said the need for this new role comes from the Fordham administration’s “desire for helping students to succeed.”
Fordham President Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., explained in an email to the university at the beginning of the fall 2019 semester how Fordham seeks to improve its retention rates — this position is another way of working toward that improvement, according to Auricchio.
In the past year, Fordham dropped in national rankings on the U.S. News and World Report; retention is one of the factors determining its ranking.
“Retention,” the percentage of students who stay at a school, “is a sign that we are doing our jobs properly,” Auricchio explained. She outlined that the Assistant Dean of Student Support and Success will be in charge of examining the current advising system, designing ways to make students’ journeys smoother and taking a holistic view of the individuals. McKnight added that the new position will also help students at FCLC “develop and understand pathways to obtaining their academic endeavors.”
As the Assistant Dean’s Office is currently only composed of four deans designated for each class, Auricchio noted, “We don’t have anybody who is in charge of the totality of the student experience.
“This position is meant to help us live up to our expectations for ourselves when it comes to the cura personalis: caring for the whole student,” Auricchio said.
In regard to living up to cura personalis, Auricchio agreed with the search committee that Williams is the best fit for the position because of her “tremendous advocacy for students.”
Auricchio shared stories from when she worked with Williams and noticed her ability to guide students along their individual paths to success: “I would say, ‘Can you tell me why this student is only taking six credits?’ and she would immediately — without looking anything up — be able to call up this student’s entire situation. For every student.”
Once Williams enters her role at Fordham Lincoln Center in February, Auricchio hopes to work with United Student Government to host an event to introduce her, as well as O’Kane in his new role, to the students. On Williams’ behalf, Auricchio added, “I’m sure she would welcome any opportunities to integrate more fully into the fabric of the student community.”