Oberlin Welcomes Deans Cross, Smith


Photo by Tanya Rosen-Jones

The College announced the hiring of Dean of Student Success Harmony Cross (left) and Assistant Dean and Director of Student Accessibility Services Rebecca Smith (right) in January.

The College welcomed Harmony Cross as dean of student success on Jan. 24 and Rebecca Smith as assistant dean and director of student accessibility services on Jan. 18. Both appointments come amid ongoing turnover and restructuring in the Division of Student Life.

Cross will also take charge of Oberlin’s efforts to increase student retention as a part of her role overseeing the Center for Student Success. Cross comes from Holyoke Community College, where she served as the dean of student development, engagement, and inclusion. Smith will take over the Office of Student Accessibility Services and comes from the University of Northern Colorado, where she worked as the director of disability resources.

Both Cross and Smith listed Oberlin’s rich historical legacy as part of what attracted them to their respective positions, and both new staff members have many ideas for initiatives in their departments. Cross stated that the Center for Student Success plans to launch a listening lounge, where students can share their experiences and concerns directly with staff. Cross also stated that she would like to amplify the College’s Learning Enhancement Across Disciplines program to offer students educational services that fall outside of academic boundaries.

Cross also emphasized the importance of analyzing data in her efforts to rebrand the Center of Student Success so that students are more aware of its purpose and the services it offers.

“As I’ve spoken to students, some students may not know that CSS exists,” Cross said. “Other students are like, ‘Yeah, that’s where Executive Functioning resides.’ So, we’re really looking at a way to rebrand in a more confined and focused way.”

Smith said her immediate priority is to fully staff the Office of Student Accessibility Services; the Office has historically experienced high turnover, which has led to inconsistent practices.

Smith also stated her goals of implementing a testing center for learning disabilities on campus and hosting universal design workshops to make classroom environments and teaching more accessible.

“I have interest in bringing some universal design workshops to campus to talk to faculty about … creating an equitable environment for all students, not just students with disabilities,” Smith said.

Although Cross and Smith have experience working in higher education, they both emphasized the importance of familiarizing themselves with the Oberlin student body so they can best meet everyone’s needs.

“Really understanding the needs of our students and making necessary adaptations is going to be critical because the challenges at Oberlin may be different than what they were at another institution in which I worked,” Cross said.

Smith echoed Cross’ emphasis on the importance of learning about Oberlin students.

“I really am going to spend a lot of time initially just listening and learning and observing how all of the pieces at Oberlin kind of fit together, and what I need to do to make sure that I’m integrating our experience with what Oberlin’s mission, vision, and values are,” Smith said.