Three finalists vying to become director of the College’s Native American Program will visit campus this week to meet with search committee members, students and faculty. The committee, chaired by Native American studies professor Melanie Benson Taylor and Office of Pluralism and Leadership director Alysson Satterlund, will make its final decision by late September.
Former director Molly Springer went on medical leave last December and currently works as coordinator of living and learning programs at California State University at Monterey Bay.
Satterlund said the committee is looking for someone with “lived experience.” The three candidates have service and education backgrounds.
Native American studies department chair Bruce Duthu, who directed the program from 1986 to 1989, said the role’s principal responsibility is to support Native students while educating others to create an “informed and inclusive community” on campus.
“It’s a pretty demanding job in the sense that doing those roles means that the director has to be very careful about dividing their time between interpersonal work with students and the community education role,” Duthu said.
The program’s mission is in large part academic, and seeks to teach students across campus about issues affecting Native people.
In the 1980s, the program fostered direct relationships with individual tribes to better support students when they arrived at Dartmouth. The next director may choose to reintroduce this outreach, Duthu said.
Duthu hopes to see continued collaboration with different areas of campus, including the Hood Museum of Art and the Hopkins Center.
The committee’s ideal candidate is student-oriented and creative, Satterlund said, and Duthu stressed the ability to work with a range of personality types.
Former program intern and pre-orientation mentor Taylor Payer ’15 said the program has been less focused on programming since Springer left because temporary leaders have had to divide their time between various campus obligations.
“It’s been reduced to people who had other jobs,” Payer said. “That’s combined with the people being in charge who weren’t Native.”
Payer said she hopes the new director will have experience living on a reservation or ties to the Native American community.
Native student Monica Stretten ’15 said in an email that she hopes the new director can strengthen bonds with other campus communities and within the Native community.
OPAL and administrative positions filled by minorities have seen a large amount of turnover in recent years.
“There’s always an office within OPAL that doesn’t have a director at any given time,” Payer said.
Duthu said he could not identify the reasons for minority turnover but suggested that the program director, who may work with up to 180 Native American students, may not receive sufficient administrative support.
“Turnover may be a function of people burning out because they just have too much to do,” he said.
Payer said the administration has not been sufficiently transparent in explaining the reasons behind administrative turnover.
Benson Taylor said in an email that the College’s strong Native American history offers potential for a successful Native American support system.
“The College’s historic commitment to indigenous peoples means that we have the premier Native American program in the country,” she said. “This means that the new NAP director will have the unparalleled opportunity to bring his or her expertise to a place that values and supports the development of future Native leaders at every level.”
Student search committee member Preston Wells ’15 declined to comment.
*Sasha Dudding, Marina Shkuratov and Marian Lurio contributed reporting.**##