New Staff Reimagines Student Life

Vice President and Dean of Students Karen Goff continues to restructure the student life division, welcoming several new staff members. Mark Zeno started as assistant vice president and dean of Residential Education and Campus Life Auxiliaries on Feb. 28, Andrew Oni started as executive director of Student Safety and Wellbeing on Feb. 21, and Ted Evans started as director of entrepreneurship on Jan. 18.

The three new staff members join Dean of Student Success Harmony Cross and Assistant Dean and Director of Student Accessibility Services Rebecca Smith, both of whom were hired in January.

After identifying seven strategic focus areas to reimagine the College’s student life division, Goff has developed and filled new positions to increase communication among departments, prevent administrative bureaucracy, and increase student accessibility.

“I’m trying to figure out: how do we move barriers out of students’ way so you all could really have a full rich experience?” Goff said.

Part of this realignment has resulted in new positions that bridge communication divides between departments. Although the administration formerly operated with individual roles overseeing both ResEd and Campus Dining Services, Zeno, in the new position as dean of Residential Education and Campus Life Auxiliaries, will oversee both of these departments. Likewise, Executive Director of Student Safety and Wellbeing Oni will act as a new connecting piece between Campus Safety, the Counseling Center, and Student Health Services. Although the College’s LaunchU program offers entrepreneurial opportunities to students, Evans’ new position as director of entrepreneurship will expand this framework to include both academic and co-curricular experiences.

Prior to starting their positions at the College, both Zeno and Evans worked in higher education. Zeno served as dean of student affairs at Heidelberg University while Evans worked as senior director of corporate relations and placement and director of finance at Case Western Reserve University’s Weatherhead School of Management. Oni has worked primarily in the health care industry. Most recently, he worked as a physician and provider relationship manager at Bon Secours Mercy Health.

Zeno named Oberlin’s campus culture and community, along with Goff’s vision, as key factors that drew him to Oberlin. After familiarizing himself with the College, students, and staff, Zeno plans on developing the College’s current housing master plan with more detail and regard for student needs and expectations.

As for specific plans in campus housing, Zeno said his approach will focus on both building new structures and renovating current dorms. He mentioned that the College plans to construct a 300- bed complex consisting entirely of suite-style rooms with more private bathrooms to better meet student expectations.

“As newer generations are coming here, there’s higher expectations,” Zeno said. “We want to be able to live up to some of those expectations that they might have.”

Zeno also placed an emphasis on considering student input when planning renovations of campus housing. He stressed that he wants to preserve dorms’ cultures, traditions, and valued spaces in the process of finding ways that the College can renovate dorms to better meet students’ needs.

“I don’t want to lose the charm or the tradition. I’m a big fan when it comes to tradition,” he said. “I think traditions define who we are as a community.”

When asked about what drew him to his new position, Oni said that he wanted a role where he could combine his prior work experience in health care with his educational experiences and interests.

“When I saw the job description, I was like, ‘This is what I’m looking for,’ and I prayed I would get it,” he said. “When eventually I got the job offer, it was one of the best days of my life.”

Evans said that in his previous position at Case Western, he worked with and developed relationships with Oberlin students and administrators. So, when approached about the role for director of entrepreneurship, Evans already had some familiarity with Oberlin.

“Entrepreneurship programming is emphasizing creativity, leadership, excellence, innovation, perseverance — all those things that entrepreneurs have — and it’s critical, not just in the business world,” he said.

Evans also said he plans on implementing experiential learning opportunities, courses, workshops, guest lecturers, internships, fellowships, support for launching businesses, and networking opportunities. He mentioned that he would like to reincorporate the Conservatory into the LaunchU program.

All three new staff members said that they look forward to meeting and working with Oberlin students to make their College experience better.

“The past two weeks I’ve spent on campus with students reminds me of my own growing up as a student and the support I received from faculty and staff on campus,” Oni said. “I’m hoping to bring that same kind of support to student learning and experience on campus.”