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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Eddy: Ready for RISD

Published: September 3, 2010
Section: Features

PHOTO BY Ingrid Schulte/The Hoot

Everyone wears more than one hat at Brandeis. Whether it’s being a community service leader, academic advisor or club captain. As university President Jehuda Reinharz often says, “everyone’s a president at Brandeis.”

The metaphor fits perfectly for Senior Vice President for Students and Enrollment Jean Eddy, who has also been the acting dean of admissions for the last year since the departure of Gil Villanueva. In September she announced her own exit from her Brandeis home of 10 years.

Before she came to Brandeis, Eddy’s position on the Brandeis administration didn’t exist: Reinharz created it for her.

“It was a brand new position created here,” she said. “[It was] the biggest position of this kind in the country at that time, and I was excited about it because I could impact the whole portal of the student experience, the entire experience.”

This “portal” is what Eddy calls virtually every activity or happening that makes up students’ lives outside (and some inside) the classroom. Her office of Students and Enrollment, encompasses a whopping slice of the Brandeis experience: the entire Division of Student Affairs, which includes the Departments of Community Living, Orientation and Student Activities; the Department of Athletics; Academic Services and the University Registrar, in addition to the many other special programs the university facilitates.

“I really care about the entire student experience,” Eddy said, talking about the sheer scope of her post. “Everyone [in this office] is worrying about and working for the same thing.”

This past year’s foray into admissions only fits more evenly into her vision of this powerful senior vice presidency. According to Eddy, students are “recruited to come, fall in love, and we have to do everything to make sure they stay in love.”

It is this justification that allows her to be comfortable in both jobs, and to manage the giant portfolio. When accepting Brandeisians, “you had better make sure you fulfill your promise,” she said. “It’s up to everyone else here to make sure the student is happy.

“The first touch after a student pays their deposit, a student is a little worried. For this reason, after the Orientation Leaders, Student Activities and Community Advisors, you find that people around them are needed to pull them in and help build a community around them,” she said. The scope of the senior vice president and his or her division, she said, is simply “about everybody pulling together to create this really fabulous place.”

Before taking over her current position at Brandeis, Eddy served in a top enrollment position at Northeastern University. Eddy said she was of two minds about her lengthy stay at Brandeis.

“The thing about this place is people ask all the time how long I’ve worked here,” she said, “and sometimes I really don’t know. I’m pulled in, engaged, and I know it’s been 10 years, but it feels like five minutes.”

At the beginning of Eddy’s time here, she attended a basketball game and nearly every student, the small amount that was there, was doing homework. She wondered why Brandeis did not yet have that certain spark of belonging.

In her time here, she has strengthened not only the Athletics program but also sought to step up the community involvement at large through Student Affairs’ student leadership positions and special programs. In the second phase of her story, Eddy recounted a recent time at Brandeis.

“Something that made me sit back years later was, at another basketball game, in the NCAA Championship, and the gym was completely packed—and a string of boys had the big Brandeis blue letters across their bare chests,” she says. “I thought to myself that this could not be the same place I walked into. We had come full-circle.”

Jean Eddy will step down at the end of September to take a similar position at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), a top national arts college.

“I still love the students here, and the people I work with, nothing has changed,” Eddy says. “But RISD will be a very different institution, with new challenges for me.”

In the 10 years since her position was an exploration into the limits of enrollment office powers, RISD has joined the growing national movement for a central leader for the student experience.

“If I was ever going to take on new challenges and another student experience, now would be the time. They’re embracing the same model Brandeis did, and that I was a part of,” Eddy says. “For me, leaving now means I get to do it all over again.”