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  • Collegian staff

Sudden forum held for new dean of students candidate, Abbas Hill

Updated: Mar 25, 2021

Emma Innes

Staff writer

Picture of Abbas Hill. Taken from his LinkedIn profile.

Update Mar. 25: In an email on Mar. 25, Vice President of Student Affairs and co-chair of the searching committee Lisa Landreman said “I am a bit concerned about the impression that may have been given about why we invited a 5th candidate to interview for the Dean of Students for Community Care and Inclusion position.” Landreman explained that Hill was given a finalist invitation with the other four candidates but a family emergency made him unavailable until the interview process was underway. The search committee then decided it would be in their best interest to proceed with giving him an interview.

The search committee for the new position Dean of Students for Community Care and Inclusion (CCI) held a forum for a fifth finalist. The forum came as a surprise, as it had not been previously announced with the other four forums and it appeared Willamette University only had four finalists. The Dean for CCI will have [several responsibilities] working for a campus environment that [includes and supports] all students.

The fifth finalist is Abbas Hill, currently the associate dean of student life and director of residence life and housing at [Roger Williams University] in Bristol, R.I. His resume lists him as currently as coordinator the Multicultural Advisor Program at [Central Michigan University] in Mount Pleasant, Mich. For notable things in his background, Hill pointed out how he established the housing department at [Purdue University Northwest] (PUNW) in Hammon, Ind. Also at PUNW, Hill developed the resident conduct process and the chief conduct officer position.

During his video introduction, Hill said he is a first-generation college student. Hill also expressed that he is proud to be Muslim and proud to be Black. Hill said he has a strong appreciation for the sacrifices families make for students, having experienced that with his own family. For what informs his why, Hill talked about how he knows the importance of inclusion, how even small acts can make a difference, the effect opportunities can have on students’ lives and the importance of sharing essential student resources.

Co-chair of the searching committee, Professor of Chemistry and Director of First year experience Sarah Kirk asked Hill why he applied toWillamette and why now. Hill said the role [Dean for CCI] excites him because it aligns with his passion and experience. He believes student experience matters a lot because students are the cornerstone to institutions such as Willamette.

Gretchen Moon, associate dean for student success, asked Hill what part of the role would be new for him. Hill stated that while he is very knowledgeable in Title IX regulations, he does not have much experience actively practicing them.

The Collegian asked Hill how he would handle pressure from each side of the political spectrum and the right wing protests that have been occurring at the Capitol across the street from campus. Hill said he would work with Campus Safety on student safety. He said that it is important to highlight the right of free speech, but also to teach students the impact words can have. Hill acknowledged demonstrations such as the far right ones Willamette has been near can bring up a lot of emotions and do harm. He said he would do his best to support students and navigate discussions about the protests together.

Kirk asked Hill how he practices self care, pointing out how much the role has to handle. Hill said he practices meditation and prayer, as well as just getting out into nature and listening to music. Hill continued, saying that students should be taught self care.

Professor of Anthropology Rebecca Dobkins asked Hill about his experience with mentoring students as well as how he would go about that at Willamette. Hill said mentorship is where the strongest impact is. Hill said that at times he would mentor without realizing it, telling about a student who was Residence Hall Association President and had one hour weekly meetings with Hill, later calling him an important mentor.

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