It was one year ago today that I was offered my current position as dean. I well remember receiving the call from the provost asking me to take the position and laying out the general offer. It was definitely one of the most exciting moments in my career thus far.

One day later was the first public acknowledgment of my appointment, which is where this picture was taken. It was at the college’s annual potluck. It was rather precipitously decided that I would be announced at this event because the word had gotten out on facebook that I was the new dean. (My little sister wrote something about it on my wall, and some of my students saw it before I was able to delete it.) The university didn’t officially announce it until the following Monday.

This year’s potluck is also this afternoon. So, this is a good moment to think back and assess my first year as dean. I few people have pointed out how happy I look in this picture. And I definitely was ecstatic. It felt like everything I had ever wanted had suddenly come to fruition.

The main thing that’s on my mind as I reflect today is how naive I was about the job I was getting into. I look back and realize that I knew next to nothing about being a dean. I see just how minuscule my experience really was in such areas as management, budgets, fund-raising, dealing with a couple hundred students and all of their problems, and even many of the basic aspects, policies, and programs of the college I would subsequently lead.

I have to say that all of my hopes have been more than met this past year. I love everything about my job. I love working with our students most of all. They’re all so smart, hard-working, and interesting.

One of the concerns that some students felt when I was a candidate for the job was whether I would be interested in the sciences at all. I knew that I would be, of course, because I always enjoyed science classes in high school and as an undergraduate. But I needed to show them that I was. Accordingly, I started a book club in the winter, and our first book was Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. Next winter, our book club is going to be Carl Sagan’s Cosmos (though that’s actually just because I want to read it again and watch the series). I’ve also been attending as many of the science students’ senior presentations as I could. This year, I went to almost all of the biology students’ talks, all of which were fascinating. I don’t understand everything they talk about, but I’ve enjoyed them nevertheless.

And I’ve really enjoyed meeting with alumni, which is the first step in development and fund-raising. Their experiences in the college and after graduation are also all so varied and interesting. It’s easy to be interested in their stories.

Perhaps my biggest growth over the year is my comfort in talking to people. I tend toward shyness and have always been reticent when talking to people I don’t know well. I realized recently that I’ve become much more comfortable in talking to strangers and in generally working the room at events with people I know. I still have to push myself sometimes, but I’m increasingly comfortable in such circumstances.

So, what have been the downsides this year? The biggest has been how exhausted I am all the time. I need to exercise more so that I can get my energy levels up. Also, I feel the loss of not being home as much and of not spending as much time with PJ as I used to do. He’s been wonderful this year in helping me adjust to my new life, but I’m going to have to work harder at being present at home and do my part of the housework next year when he goes back to teaching (he’s been on sabbatical this year).

All in all, I love my job. When the interim dean met PJ before the annual graduation dinner last year, he said, “You’re partner’s life is going to change.” He was completely right. Everything’s changed from how it was just one year ago. It’s changed, and, surprisingly for someone who generally hates change, I really like it!

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