Two newcomers to the Office of Student Affairs are taking steps to bring the Colby community together.
Kurt Nelson is the first dean of religious and spiritual life. Andrea Breau ’03 returns to Mayflower Hill as the director of gender and sexual diversity programs and associate director of the Pugh Center.
Nelson and Breau spent their first two weeks on campus working to understand Colby culture, and they drew similar conclusions about their respective fields—there’s already a lot going on in them.
“There’s actually a lot of individual work on gender and sexual diversity, but there’s no one to coordinate those efforts,” Breau said. She is working to bring together clubs like Student Health on Campus (SHOC) and the Bridge (the LGBTQ and allies club) as well as staff from Health Services to address common issues and overlaps in programming.
“I’m looking at ways to make the peer-to-peer education programs or LGBT support groups institutionalized, so that they don’t leave [with] the students who started them,” she said.
Nelson sees great potential for his new position and is focused on building bridges across religious groups on campus. One initiative is a new Multi-Faith Council, intended to bring student leaders of religious groups together to build understanding. Drawing upon his experiences as assistant chaplain at Dartmouth, where he headed a successful community service-oriented spring break every year, Nelson is working on a partnership between Colby’s faith community and the Colby Volunteer Center.
Kelsey Conroy ’13, a co-leader of the Catholic Newman Council, welcomed Nelson’s arrival. One of his interns and a participant on the Multi-Faith Council, Conroy said she sees Nelson as a resource for students like her to explore their faith while growing academically. “Until now, we’ve never had a space where students can come together, on equal ground, to bring their questions … to explore not only the rhetoric of faith, but also what that means as it applies to one’s daily reality,” she said.
This fall Nelson’s initial task was learning more about Colby and its culture. He pointed to a tome on his desk, Mayflower Hill: A History of Colby College. “It’s very long,” he said, “but very interesting.”