Nancy Thompson hired as dean of student affairs, chief student affairs officer ad interim

Nancy Thompson, newly hired dean of student affairs and chief student affairs officer ad interim, poses for a portrait in front of Dowling Hall on Sept. 19, 2019. Seohyun Shim / The Tufts Daily

Nancy Thompson, former vice president and dean of students at Hamilton College, has joined the Tufts community as the dean of student affairs and chief student affairs officer ad interim. As Tufts begins to find someone to fill that position permanently, Thompson brings decades of experience and skill to the Dean of Student Affairs Office. Along with transitional support while the search progresses, she will provide overall supervision of the Dean of Student Affairs Office, Residential Life, Campus Life, Health and Wellness and the Career Center.

Thompson brings with her 30 years of experience working with college students. She said that although Tufts is a much larger school than Hamilton, she has found her experience so far to be similar.

“The size difference and the setting difference made me think that there would be bigger differences between the kinds of work I did at Hamilton and the kind of work that I will do here. And actually, it’s incredibly similar. Both institutions have students who are super smart, super driven, engaged, really interesting and fun to work with,” she said.

After retiring from Hamilton in June of 2017 and 13 years of work as vice president of student affairs and dean of students, she said she is more than ready to commence work at Tufts.

“It’s stuff that is really so similar, and it’s very natural for me to be wading around in these issues. Trying to make sure students at Tufts have the resources and support they need to be successful; that’s really what I’ve always been about, whether it’s Hamilton or Tufts,” she said.

Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences James Glaser explained his appreciation for Thompson stepping into the position as quickly as she did.

“Nancy Thompson has vast experience from her years as dean of student affairs at Hamilton College. She knows the issues extremely well, and has a well-founded reputation as a problem solver, mentor and strategic thinker — which has been apparent in the very short time she’s been here. Because we have so much strength throughout the organization, students will be very well served this year,” he said in an email to the Daily.

Chris Rossi, dean of student life and engagement, described the desire for Thompson to come to Tufts as an ad interim dean, particularly after three recently vacated seats. One of those changes was the appointment of Nandi Bynoe to associate dean of diversity and inclusion, previously working as assistant dean of student affairs, according to a Student Affairs email.

“We really had three open positions in Students Affairs. Mary Pat [McMahon] departed for Duke [University], Raymond [Ou] departed for Brandeis [University] and Nandi [Bynoe] got this really exciting new job. While our team is eager to go, that is a lot of people and experience walking out the door. Jim Glaser, myself and a few other people in Student Affairs started talking about how we were going to structure our reorganization in the long term and in the short term, how we were going to approach this year,” Rossi said.

Glaser also commented on the process of finding an ad interim dean of student affairs in a short time period over the summer months.

“We did not have enough time to run a search, so we decided to recruit a seasoned retired leader from another school to help us in the interim. Dean [of the School of Engineering Jianmin] Qu and I recruited Nancy Thompson into the role at the very end of August. It happened very quickly, and we were so lucky that the stars aligned as they did,” he said in an email to the Daily.

Rossi expressed his gratitude that the transition has gone smoothly for Thompson and Dean of Student Affairs Office. “I cannot tell you enough how lucky we are to have someone like Nancy who is available and willing to come. It has been seamless. Hamilton is a different school from us, but Nancy comes in and we share a language, literally from day one. We were very lucky,” he said.

Glaser explained that the search process for the dean of student affairs was well underway, but said that the process is confidential and he has no timeline for when the position will be filled.

Glaser also explained the characteristics they are looking for in someone to fill the position.

“[The Dean of Student Affairs Office] is a large and complicated organization with a lot of staff doing important work tending to the day-to-day interests and challenges of students.  Judicial affairs, residential life, physical and mental health and wellness, career services, individual student problems, the list goes on,” he said.

Even as the Tufts community awaits the arrival of a permanent dean, Thompson and the Tufts community are eager to commence their work together at the university.

“I find this to be a wonderful community and I have really enjoyed meeting the students, faculty and staff here. I am truly excited to be here,” she said.