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College Dean to Step Down at End of Year

Katy+Smith+Abbott+has+served+in+her+current+role+since+2014.
Katy Smith Abbott has served in her current role since 2014.

Katy Smith Abbott has served in her current role since 2014.

Middlebury College

Middlebury College

Katy Smith Abbott has served in her current role since 2014.

By NICK GARBER

Katy Smith Abbott, vice president for student affairs and dean of the college, will step down from her role in the administration at the end of December. She will continue teaching as a full-time professor in the art history department.

Smith Abbott’s decision was first announced in August by President Laurie L. Patton. “I am both saddened at the thought of not having her as a member of the senior administration and pleased that she is remaining at Middlebury and following her academic and personal interests,” Patton said in an email to students

Baishakhi Taylor, the current dean of students, will become interim vice president for student affairs on Jan. 1, 2018.

In an email to The Campus, Smith Abbott shared several goals for her remaining few months. First, she hopes to “continue to work on the implementation of Restorative Practices at Middlebury,” an effort that was renewed last spring in the wake of disciplinary proceedings relating to student protests of Charles Murray. Smith Abbott said that facilitated workshops on restorative practices are slated to take place this week, followed by an intensive training program later in the year.

Second, Smith Abbott plans to “share with the student body and the broader community the results of a social life study that was conducted through student focus groups last year.” Once the results have been publicized, she said, “we will need to work as a community to prioritize the many recommendations articulated in the report.”

Finally, Smith Abbott plans to work closely with the Student Affairs Leadership Team, composed of several other administrators, to “ensure a smooth transition” following her departure. “This is a group of seasoned professionals and strong leaders, so I’m not worried,” she said, “just committed to doing all I can to support each of these great colleagues.”

In her August email, Patton praised Smith Abbott for her work to expand MiddView Trips, provide stipends for J-term courses and summer internships, and her role in the creation of “[email protected],” a program for incoming first-generation students.

“Over the years Katy has led and inspired numerous initiatives to improve the experience of our undergraduate student,” Patton wrote. “Through it all, Katy has worked to enrich the experience for all of our students.”

Smith Abbott first arrived at Middlebury in 1996. From 2002 to 2008 she and her husband, Steve Abbott, a math professor, served as faculty co-heads of Ross Commons. She was then appointed associate dean of the college and later, in 2011, dean of students. In 2014 then-president Ronald D. Liebowitz appointed Smith Abbott to her current position. She originally served on an interim basis but was formally named to the post later that year.

Taylor came to Middlebury in 2015 from Duke University, where she worked under Patton in Duke’s Trinity College of Arts and Sciences. Like Smith Abbott, Taylor may eventually be named the official dean of the college despite being an interim appointment, although Smith Abbott had been employed by the college for 18 years when she was promoted.

Will DiGravio and Ethan Brady contributed reporting.

1 Comment

One Response to “College Dean to Step Down at End of Year”

  1. Anita Punj on September 15th, 2017 9:20 am

    Congratulations Baishakhi!

    [Reply]