Q&A: Director of Campus Life Jed Wartman
Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Campus Life Jed Wartman started at Colby in July and talked with Teko Mmolawa ’12 about his new job.
What do you do as director of campus life?
Within campus life is campus programs and leadership, outdoor education, and residential living and education. And we’ve got a terrific team managing the housing process, but then there’s the community development within those residence halls. So we’re working with the CA [Community Advisors] staff, supporting them in working with their communities. Within the campus programs and leadership development arena there’s support of the student organizations … And then within the outdoor education area it’s support of the COOT [Colby Outdoor Orientation Trips] program.
Where were you before Colby?
I’d been at MIT for four years in a similar role. MIT is a fascinating place. There’s tremendous creativity and innovation on that campus. But I am somebody that tends to see the world through a lens of community, and the community at a place like Colby is—to me feels more significant than it did at MIT. I went to Bowdoin College, and as much energy as we spent as undergraduates differentiating between Bowdoin and Colby, they actually are quite similar places, and so being on this campus feels a bit like a homecoming.
Was that a reason you chose Colby?
That’s one of the reasons. Also the emphasis on the holistic student. I think that students at Colby and [at] places like Colby are truly able to take ownership of their college experience and make it into what they want it to be. The other thing that drew me to this job is that it’s a nice combination of areas that I’ve worked in before. I was doing student activities and leadership development, but prior to that I had several jobs in residential life. So this job of director of campus life brought those offices and brought those roles together in a way that is exciting for me. The size of Colby is very attractive. I think that it’s a big enough place where there really is a lot happening, but it’s also a small enough place that you can make a difference.
Are you interacting more with students as you go along?
There are students that have a lot of reason to come into Campus Life. So I feel like I see a fair amount of those students, but I know there’s a whole other population of students that I haven’t met yet. I think one of the challenges from the past for this office is that it’s been a terrific resource—for those students that know about it.
How are you available to students?
What I hope a student can get out of interacting with our office is to have the opportunity to explore their ideas. [We are] genuinely interested in what that student has to say and try to be supportive and understand their perspective. … Students can come here to register events, to talk through event logistics. If a student is feeling like they haven’t yet connected with the Colby community we certainly can help with that as well. If there is something that’s going on outside of the academic experience, that’s where we should be able to be a resource.
What’s challenging about your job?
There’s a lot to do. … One of things that I really value is being present, and for me that means that when I am sitting here talking with you or with anybody else, that’s what I am thinking about. I really want to focus on that and give people every bit of my attention. But in doing that it doesn’t always feel easy to give everything that deserves attention that kind of attention. …The other is that—and this is a product of still being new to this community—is understanding what Colby is about: what are the values of this place, and of the student body, and what do students need. And then using that information to help determine what the best role for me to play is, how can I be most helpful. But that’s also invigorating and energizing.
What does presence mean to you?
I think it’s a value. I think I was first encouraged to be present in that way from my own family and parents. There’s that Woody Allen quote which is that ninety percent of success is showing up. In a conversation I had with my dad a while ago, he was talking about that quote, but about how showing up is not physically being in the room. Showing up is something different—it’s something more than just being physically present. It’s about really committing your energy and your thought to what’s happening in the moment. And I tend to believe that. And this doesn’t really mean there aren’t times when I am not distracted or my mind wanders. It absolutely does, but I try to avoid that as much as I can.
What puts a smile on your face about this job?
I think it’s the interactions with people that put a smile on my face, and that’s sort of the story of my life. I am a very relational person … connecting with people is what I am about, and the people that I have met within the Colby community have been just fantastic people. They are exciting, smart, curious, kind—and all those things are things that I have a value for and appreciate.
So if you’re not directing campus life, what are you up to?
One of the attractions of coming to Colby was Maine. I have real affection for being outside. Anything active outside, so running, biking, skiing, kayaking. I’m married, so I spend as much time as I can with my wife, whose name is Brynn. And we just got a puppy, a Boston terrier puppy, who wakes us up in the middle of the night and pees on the floor and all the things that puppies are supposed to do. People are important to me, so I spend as much time as I can with my friends as well. I also like just watching people go by. Which is harder to do in Hallowell Maine, than it was in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
I guess I’d just like to invite people to introduce themselves, say hello. I’m eager to meet as many people as I can. I’m also hoping that I can rally a staff broomball team to make a run at the trophy.