By Emma Way
Senior Staff Writer
Washington College is going to have some big shoes to fill. After seven years of hard work, we say goodbye to Mela Dutka, dean of students and vice president of student affairs.
Hailing from Massachusetts, Dutka began thinking of a career in student life during her time as a residential assistant at University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. After receiving her master’s degree in student personnel services from University of Vermont and her doctorate in curriculum, instruction, and administration from Boston College, she went on to serve as dean of students for Smith College.
Dutka oversees many necessary aspects of student life, including housing and career and health services. All the resources she has helped to grow enable students to succeed in and out of the classroom. These programs “enrich students’ lives while they’re here to both support education and extend learning,” Dutka said.
Under Dutka’s leadership the College has established a Student Honor Board Chair and career training that begins before students even step a foot on campus, which, according to Dutka, are not found on an average campus.
With the vast amount of clubs and opportunities available at WC, finding a suitable pastime is often overwhelming for students. The Student Affairs staff works to guide students using counseling and career services to make every student’s college experience a meaningful and transformative one, Dutka said.
Dutka’s dedication to WC is not only evident from the physical advancements she has made here, but also from the words of her colleagues.
Associate Dean of Students and Director of Residential Life Carl Crowe said, “Mela is a committed professional who has given a 100 percent of her time and energy to developing educationally rich opportunities outside the classroom.”
Sarah Feyerherm, associate vice president for Student Affairs, said, “Despite the fact that her work plate is always full, she’s never been too busy to meet with a student or a colleague. [Mela] came here with a vision for Student Affairs and I think she can leave completely confident that she achieved that.”
With the help of Dutka, the Student Affairs staff formulated a five-year plan, which would promote a stronger first year program and expand career services. Now, the staff is closing up this plan and preparing a new one with hopes that it will provide an equal amount of success.
There is no average day in Dutka’s office; she is always striving to address each and every individual student’s needs, along with the needs of student groups.
“Mela would make sure that students had a voice on campus… I still look to Mela for advice,” said Ed Hoegg, ’11, president of the Student Events Board for 2010-11.
When asked to specify what her biggest accomplishment was here at WC, Dutka responded with praise for her staff. “I’ve been able to hire a … really terrific Student Affairs staff. They’ve designed programs to work better… and continue to refine their services.”
Dutka is wrapping up her time at WC with one final semester, but her successful career does not end here. After tending to some family matters, Dutka hopes to find a new college where she can challenge herself once again in growing student resources and programs in order to make the most prosperous environment possible for students.
When asked about his thoughts on Dutka’s departure, President Mitchell Reiss said, “Mela has transformed Student Affairs during her time at the College, introducing best practices, protocols, and professional standards to meet the ever-changing needs of our student body, as well as ensuring compliance with an array of state and federal laws and regulations. She has been a tireless advocate for our students and their co-curricular experiences. I know that all of us wish her well in her new endeavors.”
The College recently formed a committee of faculty, staff, administrators, and students to search for Dutka’s replacement.