Dana Hamdan, executive director of the Career Development Center and associate dean of students, is leaving Oberlin College for a position at Brown University. There, she will work as the senior director for Strategic Engagement and chief of staff in the Division of Campus Life. Hamdan’s departure from Oberlin is effective May 7, according to an email sent to faculty and staff yesterday from Chief of Staff David Hertz.
“Dana has always kept her eye on student development and cultivating a genuinely supportive student community,” wrote Associate Dean of the College of the Arts and Sciences Laura Baudot in an email to the Review. “She has been a wonderful and creative collaborator across academic and student life divisions, which is a rare gift.”
Before stepping into her current roles, Hamdan served as assistant director for student engagement and assistant dean for international students. During her seven years at Oberlin, she oversaw the creation of a plethora of new programs, including the Peer Advising Leaders program, the Sophomore Opportunities and Academic Resources program, the Career Communities program, the Junior Practicum, and the Senior Launch program — five new programs designed to guide Obies through each academic year.
One of Hamdan’s first initiatives was the Peer Advising Leaders program, which guides first-year students during orientation and through their first semester at Oberlin. The PAL program is facilitated by older students who lead cohorts of 10–15 first-years through adjusting to Oberlin’s unique culture, building relationships with professors, and taking care of themselves while managing busy academic schedules.
College third-year Kofi Asare serves as a PAL and said that his work with the program has deeply shaped his Oberlin experience.
“Working with Dana has been a highlight of my Oberlin work experience because of the way that she tries her best to create opportunities for students,” Asare wrote in a message to the Review. “I loved her enthusiasm and the way that she held myself and other PALs accountable to know what our roles were in shaping the experiences of first-year students, and she has had a large impact on me and others through this. Her dedication is what was most valuable about her role on campus and I have no doubt that she will bring that same energy and drive to Brown.”
Nathan Carpenter, OC ’20, is the director of the PAL and SOAR programs and was a second-year when the PAL program first launched. Carpenter was among the first group of students to serve as PALs.
“Even before anyone really knew what PAL could achieve, we knew there was something magical about this program that Dana had built — and it was all rooted in the trust that Dana placed in the PALs as student leaders,” Carpenter wrote in an email to the Review. “Dana invests in students and pulls out their best qualities. She encourages them to identify ways to improve campus culture and provides pathways to champion that vision. She helps them become the kind of leaders they might have never expected to become. I know I speak for many fellow alumni, and current students as well, in saying that Dana has helped us become the people we are today.”
The SOAR program — which Hamdan also launched — is organized in a similar way to PAL, with older students guiding second-years through choosing a major, making a LinkedIn account and résumé, and asking a professor to be their advisor.
“I’m most proud of what ties together all the initiatives I’ve launched: propelling students forward by tapping into our ethos of Obies helping Obies,” Hamdan wrote in an email to the Review. “This ethos is why the cohort model is so powerful. And it is why I was able to work with the entire Oberlin community — students, alumni, faculty, and staff — to achieve common goals.”
Hamdan also oversaw the swift and innovative formation of programs to help students through the pandemic. When the three-semester plan was announced, the Career Development Center created the Junior Practicum program for third-years during their semester off. The Junior Practicum connected third-year students to internships and research opportunities, while also providing a month-long career readiness summit.
In light of the difficulties of graduating and entering the workforce in the wake of the pandemic, Hamdan created the brand-new Senior Launch program this year. Senior Launch provided graduating students with practical skills for interviewing, budgeting, and negotiating, as well as $400 to help students in their transition away from college.
Hamdan also introduced a focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion in career development. In the Junior Practicum, students grappled with complex problems such as gentrification and learned about navigating identity in the workplace. During Senior Launch, guest speaker Temptaous Mckoy came to speak with students about deconstructing professionalism, specifically how the concept is often code for whiteness. Hamdan called for colleges across the country to make similar commitments to DEI work in her op-ed, “In the wake of the pandemic and racial protests, colleges must transform their career services for students,” in Inside Higher Ed.
Campus administrators are committed to upholding both the programs and the general innovative spirit that Hamdan brought to the career center.
“The Career Development Center has some really talented people who work there,” Hertz said. “We have a lot of faith in their abilities to continue to build on their success and the passion they have to serve students.”
According to Hertz, oversight of the career center will be transferred from the Office of the Dean of Students to the College of Arts and Sciences until a new executive director is hired. The Office of the Dean of Students is currently in a period of transition after Vice President and Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo left her position abruptly last week.
“In the wake of Dana’s exit, we’re going to temporarily move the CDC under the offices of Dean David Kamitsuka in Arts and Sciences — that’s to help maintain that momentum at a time when there’s a fair amount of transition in student life,” Hertz said. “Adrian Bautista is overseeing student life right now and this is a way to lighten his load while at the same time, ensuring that we continue to have focus on the CDC, which is so important for us.”
During the summer, a search will be launched to find a new executive director of the Career Development Center. As of yet, no one has officially been named interim director. Hertz said
that a timeline for the hiring process has not been set in stone.
While Carpenter says Hamdan will be missed, he is sure that her legacy will endure at Oberlin.
“Dana has not only designed and implemented incredibly impactful programs for students of all class years, but she has also ensured that those programs have strong foundations for continued success into the next academic year and beyond,” Carpenter wrote. “To me, the enduring nature of these initiatives is one of the greatest testaments to Dana’s commitment to Obies, and why I know that this campus will continue to benefit from her leadership for years to come.”