College Welcomes New Deans

By Eliza Teach

August marked the introduction of two new student life staff members to the College: Baishakhi Taylor joined the College as the new Dean of Students, taking over from Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of the College Katy Smith Abbott, while AJ Place assumed the role of an Associate Dean of Judicial Affairs and Student Life.

As Dean of Students, Taylor will oversee five main logistical areas: Judicial Affairs, Residential Life, Health and Wellness Education, Student Activities and parts of the Commons system.

Place will share responsibilities with Karen Guttentag — who is also an Associate Dean for Judicial Affairs and Student Life — including oversight of the Community and Academic Judicial Boards, cases that fall under the College’s Sexual Misconduct, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, and Stalking (SMDVS) Policy and disposition without hearing cases. Place will also assist with the integration of new judicial software and play a role in the creation of a Bias Incident Team, which aims to work on the coordination of prevention and response efforts for bias-related incidents on campus.

Prior to his current role, Place was the Assistant Director for Residential Life at Union College, where he oversaw campus housing, acted as a Title IX deputy, handled high-level judicial cases, and instituted a number of social justice initiatives.

“I truly enjoy working at small colleges as they provide the opportunity to get to know the folks you are working with on a deep level, and most importantly, get to know students and share in their journey,” said Place.

Taylor was previously the Associate Dean of Trinity College of Arts and Sciences at Duke University, where she was in charge of overseeing the academic life of eight hundred students.

“I have been very fortunate in that all of my previous positions have looked at student life from different perspectives both inside and outside the classroom,” said Taylor.

“These last five years have been critical in realizing that student life is a continuous thing. There is more than just taking classes and having a four year residential experience. It’s a holistic process where we put students in the middle, and I think that’s the approach I bring here,” she said.

Taylor strives to focus on how members within the community can work on engaging with one another and how the community can be more circumspect in its deliberation both inside and outside the College.

Taylor said, “I’m really looking forward to starting my journey with all of you here. I deeply believe, based on my experience

in the U.S., that you always have a love affair with the place you stay and like with any relationship sometimes it works out. Sometimes you know from the get go — this is it, I can call this place home — and that is how my experience at Middlebury College has been so far.”