The first appointment under the Clustered Learning Advocacy and Support for Students initiative that has been underway for the past year was recently made. Shannon Hitchcock ’05 has been appointed as the new Assistant Dean for Blitman Commons, effective as of October 1.
After a national search in which the Division of Human Resources went “beyond the standard avenues for advertising the position,” Rensselaer was provided with a robust pool of applicants, according to Vice President for Student Life Eddie Ade Knowles. Hitchcock proved to compare favorably to the national interest the Institute received on this position. There were students, faculty, and staff involved in the interview process (new for interviews pertaining to the CLASS initiative). Knowles also mentioned that the Office of Student Life performed a national search for the Assistant Dean of Blitman Commons position as an “opportunity to invite other potential highly qualified candidates to participate in the CLASS initiative.”
As it was the first hire made within the initiative, the process was highly competitive, and Hitchcock rose to the top among the candidates. “We put a high premium on who we bring in for CLASS,” said Knowles, “and it’s important that we do it right. The consensus across the board was that [Hitchcock] was the best in that pool for Blitman.”
Hitchcock has a strong educational background, having graduated from Rensselaer with a bachelor’s in biochemistry and biophysics. After working a couple summers during college in both the medical field and a research lab, however, she said that she just wasn’t passionate enough about the field to work in it for a living. As a senior at RPI, she was in charge of all the RAHPs as an apartment manager (the precursor to RAs and RDs) and was advised by Associate Dean of Residence Life Amanda Bingel at the time on how to instead go about getting into Residence Life as a career.
Hitchcock attended the Teachers College of Columbia University, receiving her master’s in Higher and Post-Secondary Education in 2006. Immediately following completion of her master’s, she worked as the Graduate Hall Director at Barnard College and then moved to Hamilton College’s Office of Residence Life from July 2006 until December 2007. Afterwards, Hitchcock moved back to Rensselaer and has served in a variety of capacities of the office in her few years here. Currently the Assistant Dean of Residence Life, she will be transitioning slowly from this role into the one at Blitman, while other positions are in the process of being filled. Since she was temporarily living in Blitman since the beginning of this year, she will be there permanently once fully transitioned. Until then, Hitchcock will be splitting her time between her Freshman Hill office and Blitman.
Although Hitchcock couldn’t be specific about all her plans for the residence hall yet, she has high hopes for Blitman. Eventually, she detailed that the building will be all juniors and seniors and she hopes it will be different from other places on campus, encompassing many themes, though Hitchcock isn’t yet certain what they will be. “Right now, we have a lot of cohesive student groups, such as freshmen who were part of a certain floor last year moving here together,” Hitchcock said. “I hope to see that continue.”
Hitchcock also hopes to have many programs at the residence hall, and for Blitman to become a place that highlights the CLASS initiative. “As an alum, I want the experience I had here and the passion for Rensselaer to be passed on to our students,” she said. “I hope students will come away feeling that Rensselaer is their home.”
Knowles believes that Hitchcock will be an asset to the CLASS initiative. He said, “We are very proud of her accomplishments and she clearly rose to the top of the strong pool of candidates that we interviewed.”
Hitchcock hopes to continue being an advocate for students residing in Blitman to make their experience in the hall as enjoyable as possible. She stated that her door is always open to students, especially to her residents when she starts in Blitman, stating that she wants to be part of the community and not just a staff member living in the residence hall.