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New year, new deans

Justin Oh '25

For the 2023-2024 school year, three of Mercersburg’s dorms introduced new Dorm Deans. Tippetts Hall and Fowle Hall, welcomed Matt Jacobs and Sarah O’Leary ‘16, respectively, while Skylar Clark became Keil Hall’s Dorm Dean. 

The Assistant Dean of Student Life, Coleman Weibley, commented on the large residential turnover in leadership this year: “All of the leaving Dorm Deans were very sad about leaving their dorms but ultimately chose to pursue opportunities away from Mercersburg.” With the previous Dorm Deans being held in such high regard by their students for their kindness and care, the new Dorm Deans have large shoes to fill. 

Regarding the selection process for Dorm Deans, Weibley said, “The final decisions as to who Mercersburg Academy hires are based on a combination of qualifications, experience, and the applicant's commitment to building community and supporting our school's values and mission.” While noting that faculty are interviewed by a variety of people in the Mercersburg community, Weibely acknowledged that although the changes in personnel may bring about new challenges, he believes that it will also bring growth. “[Introducing new deans may] introduce innovative support programs or initiatives that enhance the overall well-being and academic success of our students.” Weibley expects the new leaders to stay in the position for several years to provide “stability and continuity for] students.”

Although each of the Dorm Deans brings a unique background and personality to the role, they all share the common goal of creating a positive living environment for their students. O’Leary spoke to her sense of responsibility: “I am very passionate about making students feel safe, seen, and welcome. I also love working with underclassmen.” She reaffirmed her enthusiasm for the job, especially her desire to interact with residents and learn about them as individuals. “Every day, I laugh, smile, or learn something new because of them,” O’Leary said. 

Fowle prefect Abby Yang ‘25 said, “Ms. O’Leary’s humor, kindness and passion are bringing great energy to Fowle.” Moreover, Anju Atsumi ‘26 is appreciative of O’Leary’s advice to students who need it. “She always talks to me and greets me with a smiling face.” 

Keil Hall Dorm Dean Skylar Clark reflected on his experience growing up at a boarding school with his dad as a dorm dean. He said, “I enjoy the camaraderie of building a tight community within a community, and I would like to establish the same kind of culture my dad was able to create when I was a kid.” Clark admits that his role is especially demanding due to his other new position as head soccer coach. However, he said, “I also feel lucky to be a part of a community that is so supportive when things do get hard.”

 On a similar note, Matt Jacobs, who previously served as Mercersburg’s baseball coach alongside his work in summer programs, said that he wanted a new opportunity to engage with students. “I could see the growth of the kids I coached in baseball, but I wanted to see a different side of their growth in the residential life component. I want to be a person they remember that made an impact on their Mercersburg experience,” Jacobs said. He wants to use his energy to create an environment where students can be their “authentic” selves. Tippetts prefect Jake Cruikshank ‘24 is excited to work with Jacobs, noting that Jacobs’ experience will be helpful for the majority of ninth and tenth grade residents of the dorm. Jacobs has received a strong reception from the new students. Resident  Aidan Yang ‘26 appreciates Jacobs’ kindness and his ability to help him adjust to the unfamiliar dorm environment.

The newly installed Dorm Deans share an excitement for the next step in their Mercersburg journey and a readiness for the challenges to come. Although this turnover in dorm personnel may require an adjustment from returning students, by giving time and patience to the new Dorm Deans, schoolwide residential life will thrive for years to come.

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