Q&A: Christopher Rossi, assistant dean of student affairs, on his new position

Christopher Rossi officially began his new role as assistant dean of student affairs on June 1. In his new role, Rossi concentrates on connecting with first-year students in order to assist them in their adjustment to college life. Prior to beginning work at Tufts, Rossi worked both as the assistant director of residential life at Bowdoin College and as the assistant director of academic operations for the online platform HBX at Harvard Business School. 

This weekRossi sat down with the Daily to discuss his new role and his goals for the year.

Tufts Daily (TD): What is your role at Tufts? What exactly do you do?

Christopher Rossi (CR): I’m the primary point of contact for all first-year students. This helps in all aspects of their transition to the university…which could be anything related from conduct, students in crisis or just general support. I’m working on our relationship with the Athletics Department — working directly with coaching staffs to support student athletes. I’m also working with our [Office of Residential Life and Learning] and our residential facilities, which focus on our physical maintenance and infrastructural improvements to any residential facilities on campus. I also run the ACE fellows, which is the Academic Community Engagement Fellows, which are seven students who live in residence. [They] are students on the ground [and] are helping with the academic transition for first-year students. So they’ll do things like academic programming, individual office hours — things of that nature.

TD: Why do you feel Tufts created this role? It’s new, so what was the need for this change?

CR: So, as far as the need for the change, the [Office of Student Affairs] last year was very lean. It’s one of the smallest ones I’ve ever seen. So I would say, given just the size of the institution, I think that we need more people in order to provide the sorts of support [needed] at an institution of this size … Given the number of people we had in the past, it’s not possible. It’s too much work. So now this gives us a bit more flexibility to be able to do more proactive work rather than reactive work.

TD: What are your goals for this position?

CR: My personal goal is to try to meet as many students…as possible. So, you’ll notice that we are situated in Dowling Hall, and I love Dowling Hall, but it’s going to be the rare person that walks across this footbridge and sits down in my office and says, “Chris, I’m having a really hard transition to Tufts.” The way that I’m going to be able to work with those students directly is going to be developing partnerships, for example, with our in-building staff like our ACE Fellows and our Residential Life staff and RAs, coaching staffs — people who are working with our students in different capacities.

This blends with my professional interest to be able to create a coordinated care team for students when they’re having difficulty that spans their interaction and activity at the university. I’m so interested in hearing directly from students about different things about this place that they love, different things about this place they would like to see be done differently and different ways that Student Affairs can enhance the student experience here. I have lots of things that I think are going to be great, but it’s much more important for me to help support student activity on campus and build things that they actually want to participate in. My initial goal for starting here is to learn more about the student experience directly from students.

TD: Do you have advice for students to better utilize the resources Tufts offers them?

CR: My only advice to students is to take a risk, to get past that perhaps initial awkwardness [of] going to ask someone for help and [to] also understand that you don’t always have to pick the exact right person. Everyone at Tufts is well versed…in helping [direct] students to the right place. But I don’t have a ton of advice for students in that area, because I think we [the Student Affairs Office] should be doing a better job of making sure students know exactly how to use these resources and making them easily accessible.

TD: In what sense are you planning to make yourself more accessible?

CR: I think the way I try to make myself a more accessible resource for students on campus and to break down some of that formality is I try to do a lot of work after hours. So, I show up to things I’m invited to, for example…the Craft Center Open House. I went to the Fraternity and Sorority Life retreat at the beginning of the year, [went] to those meetings, [went] to area meetings in the resident halls. All of these things are work that I have to do to bring myself outside of Dowling just to introduce myself at a human level, so people can see past the tie.

TD: You worked at Bowdoin College with Dean of Student Affairs Mary Patricia McMahon, so how does it feel to work with her again?

CR: It feels great. Tufts has a lot of positive things about it as an institution. But coming from Harvard, one of the best parts about Tufts is that, first of all, it’s a relational place, and it has smart people working here who care about the work that they do. Dean McMahon is one of those people. So the opportunity to work with her again was certainly a positive factor in trying to get a position at Tufts. The only thing that I would say, also, is that I found those types of people on all parts of campus, so I’ve just been very happy with my relationship with colleagues so far.

TD: Do you have any last things you want to say in particular? 

CR: I love to bass fish, and I just moved to Somerville, and so I’m having a lot of trouble finding good places to fish around the Greater Boston area. If anyone has any suggestions…striped bass, freshwater, large or small mouth bass — I’ll really take any suggestions!