Q&A with Campus Life Director
Jed Wartman took over as Associate Dean of Students and the Director of Campus Life this past July, replacing Kelly Wharton. He earned his Bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College in 2001 and his Master's in education from Harvard University. Before coming to Colby, Wartman worked as the Assistant Director of Residential Life at Bowdoin, the Director of Residential Life at Wheelock College and the Assistant Dean of Student Activities and Leadership at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He got his start on a career in higher education campus life when he joined the residential life staff at Bowdoin after coming to grips with the fact that he was, as he put it, "too slow and not talented enough" to pursue his athletic dreams any further. He said he was attracted to Colby because of the "sharp, curious and engaged students" and because he thought it was "big enough where there's a lot going on, but small enough where you can actually make things happen"¦it really feels like the right fit [for me] in a lot of ways."
Q: What do you see as the biggest challenge the College is facing today, and what do you think is your role in overcoming this challenge as the Director of Campus Life?
A: A larger challenge for Colby is thinking about how we define community"¦.Community is a slippery term in terms of what is our definition of it and do we share a definition of it, and what does it mean to be a member of that community? My sense is that Colby is wrestling with that as a larger place. I'm sure [if we asked the whole community] we would find a variety of definitions.
Q: How would you define your role in the Colby community as Director of Campus Life?
A: My hope is that my role in the Colby community will be in some ways that of a connector"¦.I do think of Campus Life as sort of this hub where, as ideas and hopes begin to form in the minds of students, faculty, staff, whoever, if they're not quite sure where to go with it or how to get some traction on it, that this is a place that they'll come and share the idea.
And then we can think together about who else might be excited about that idea and where partners might be, or what the needs for pushing that idea forward are and how we might go about it so that we can strategize together. Or even just slowing down and saying 'well why does that idea matter, is that really the idea that you're after?' I hope that I can help students clarify their idea of what they want to do and then connect them to the resources in the community to make it feasible and possible.
Q: What changes would you like to see in campus life and what are some of your biggest goals moving forward?
A: One change is that I want students, all students, to feel like campus life is a place that they can come. My sense is that in today's terms, that is not the case"¦.Another change from a programmatic perspective in terms of what we offer is that there's really a lot of growth opportunity in leadership development. I'm excited about really thinking about what leadership development is at Colby"¦.I think Colby practices leadership a lot in the context of student organizations [like] Student Government or the Outing Club; but I'm not convince that it develops leadership intentionally. And I think those are two separate things. I'd like to explore the opportunity to develop leadership, whether that's through programs, trainings, retreat, whatever. But I think there's some space there to grow.
Q: What are some of the positives you see in Campus Life or Colby life in general with which you'd like to help keep momentum and foster further growth?
A: I think there are lots of positives. Upon arrival, I sort of had this influx of people sharing ideas with me of things that they wanted to do, and so I think there is a lot of energy on campus which I think is awesome"¦.From a programmatic perspective, I don't really know what we should hold on to and what we shouldn't; it won't be my decision.
I'll be eager for students to help me think about what are the trademark components of the Colby experience and community that need to be preserved, and why do they need to be preserved"¦.For anybody that's coming in to share something, pretty quickly that's where I go: 'why is this important to you, why does it matter to Colby? What's the outcome that is relevant?' As long as people can give me a sense of that "why," then I think we've got some traction"¦.The same goes for the work that we do [in campus life] as far as what should continue-why does that work matter? If we know why it matters then we should absolutely keep doing it. If we don't know why it matters, then we should reassess.
Q: There has been a lot of work and conversation among administrators, students and faculty about changing Colby's culture through programs like Colby 360 or the Campus Culture Working Group and this year the hard alcohol ban went into effect with the goal of altering the drinking culture on campus. How do you think that Campus Life can better lead change toward the type of culture that the entire Colby community can agree is something that we want?
A: I think that we [in Campus Life] are uniquely positioned in that we have a lot of interface with students, as well as with the senior administration team. So I think that we have a unique opportunity to play a role in the communication. I've often said and believed that agreement does not always happen, but understanding should always happen. So if we don't agree we should at least know why we don't agree and why the other person arrived where they arrived"¦.Campus Life may be in a position to help explain or articulate the different perspectives or get all the parties around the table so that those perspectives can be explained directly.
Q: Can you explain your view on Colby's new hard alcohol ban, especially in light of your experience as a student at Bowdoin?
A: When I came into Bowdoin it had already been banned, so that was sort of all I knew in my college experience. I think that [at Bowdoin], similar to Colby, the ban came about not so much directly from hard alcohol being a problem but the behaviors associated with it being a concern. That continues to be a challenge for the Bowdoin community"¦they're still wrestling with the presence of the alcohol on campus, and again it's less the presence but the behavior and risk associated with it"¦
[At Colby], we are going to have to continue to evaluate what's happening on the ground. Are students safe? Are we making good decisions? Are they getting the support they need to get?"¦My hope is that the conversation can be in the context of "what is the community value and how does alcohol play a role in those community values."
Q: November 13, Colby Bowdoin football game, who have you got?
A: Hey, I'm in the Colby community now.