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David Phillips, senior class dean, talks to seniors about their personal challenges, academic records, postgraduate options, and academic goals.
 
Posted 03.15.06

'06 Class Dean Sad to See the Seniors Go

Sometimes a student’s academic problems are caused by something not-so-academic.

As a class dean, David Phillips spends much of his time advising students - discussing academic, social, and personal challenges and achieving personal goals. He’ll work with individual students, professors and even parents, to support students in their pursuit of a positive learning experience.

"What I like about my job is that I get to deal with the whole student rather than just a particular aspect of a student’s life,” Phillips says. “That’s our mission as class deans. We want to get to know them on an academic and personal level.”

Phillips, associate dean of the college and dean for the Class of 2006, oversees about 725 students in his class. He’s a source of information on academic standing; major choices; graduation requirements; university policies and procedures; and services, opportunities and resources available at the university and surrounding Middletown community.

As this year’s senior class dean, Phillips certifies students for graduation. He talks to the seniors about their academic records, postgraduate options and preparing themselves for life after Wesleyan. He runs an audit on every student to insure they have 32 credits and meet other graduation requirements.

“Each student’s credit analysis is about five pages long, so I go through a stack of papers about two feet high,” Phillips says, smiling. “It’s exciting to know that these students will be graduating soon and they will go off and begin their life-long careers.”

The New Haven, Conn. native has a special bond with the international community. Phillips, whose father worked for the State Department, considers himself an “international student” having lived in Peru, Mexico, the Philippines, New Zealand and India before returning to the States for college.

Some seniors he knows only through phone calls and e-mails, but others he sees on a regular basis during daily drop-in hours.

“I wish more would come by and say hello,” he says. “I get to meet a lot of the students that way.”

Class of 2006 president Pacho Carreno is a frequent visitor in the Dean’s Office. Phillips helped Carreno prepare for his post-Wesleyan career, at a real estate consulting firm in Boston.

“Dean Phillips has been my most helpful academic advisor at Wesleyan,” Carreno says. “His advice has enhanced my experience and has helped me to take advantage of the best that Wesleyan has to offer. I'm ready to graduate but I wish I could have an advisor like him guiding me through the real world.”

Maria Cruz-Saco, dean of the college, says as senior class dean, Phillips is instrumental in helping students complete their educational pathways at Wesleyan and as they move out into careers.

"David has a deep knowledge of Wesleyan's students and the curricular requirements,” she says. “He is insightful, supportive, a problem-solver by-excellence and loves his advising role.”

Phillips came to Wesleyan six years ago as the associate dean of the college and dean for the class of 2006. It is his first administrative job, but his background in social history, cultural studies, and the history of technology makes him an ideal advisor for students with interests across the curriculum.

Phillips earned his bachelor’s of art in photography and printmaking and his master’s of art, in comparative social history from the University of California Santa Cruz. He earned his Ph.D in American studies from Yale University. His dissertation is titled
"Art for Industry’s Sake: Halftone Technology, Mass photography, and the Social transformation of American Print Culture 1880-1920.”

Prior to Wesleyan, Phillips worked as an assistant professor at Bennington College; a site editor for the Center for Electronic Projects in American Culture Studies at Georgetown University; a teaching fellow at Yale’s American Studies Program; assistant director of the Asian American Cultural Center at the Yale University; and a Web developer for the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale.

In 2004, he taught a class on mass culture titled "The Culture Industry" for Wesleyan’s Graduate Liberal Studies Program.

"I enjoy teaching, but I really love being a class dean because you get to work with real people who have real issues in need of real solutions," he says.

Next year, Phillips will become the first-year dean, as part of the Office of the Dean’s class management system implemented in 2004. He will stay with this class throughout their four years at Wesleyan.

“With Dave's leadership we’re planning ways to enhance the first year experience,” Cruz-Saco says. “His position is at the moment more challenging that usual: helping seniors graduate, while at the same time, planning the transition for incoming students next year.”

This summer, Phillips will acclimate himself to the new student orientation program, but during his time off, he plans to continue learning guitar, develop online projects related to American studies and social history, and going for walks at the Portland reservoir with his wife Christina and his dog Lucky.
 
By Olivia Bartlett, The Wesleyan Connection editor