Students may do a double take when they first see Anne Ehrlich, PhD. on campus.
“We all noticed it right from the start,” the new Vice President for Student Development said. “I think Teresa made sure people knew she didn’t hire me because I look like her.”
The resemblance is striking. Both Knox College President Teresa Amott and the newest member of her council sport dark, bobbed hairstyles and chopped bangs. Ehrlich, who starts her Knox career March 1, laughs it off.
“I felt a really good synergy with Teresa,” she said. “The fact that we look alike probably broke the ice.”
Ehrlich, currently Dean of Students at Woodbury University in California, has a Masters in social work from the University of Michigan and a PhD in educational leadership from UCLA. She has spent most of her career at small private institutions similar to Knox.
In addition to her experience as Dean of Students, Ehrlich has done PhD-level research in educational assessment, studying the functioning and achievement of educational institutions. “So she’ll understand the work that Dean [Deb] Southern is doing, but she’ll also be able to bring this other level of looking ahead,” Amott said.
By the time Ehrlich starts this March, it will have been almost six years since former Vice President for Student Development Xavier Romano resigned in June 2010. TKS articles from the time indicate that some students were suspicious of his departure and voiced concerns about a potential conflict of interest in his positions as Vice President for Student Development, Dean of Students and the Greek life advisor following multiple alleged assaults in fraternity houses.
“When he left the institution, the feeling was ‘Well, maybe we can do without that position and save some money,’ and so we tried to do that,” Amott said. The search for Romano’s replacement was also delayed due to a succession of retirements among high level administrators that took priority in the search process.
Amott announced the search for a candidate to fill the position in the fall of 2014 via a campus-wide email. Another email was sent the following spring, stating that the search would be deferred until fall 2015 due to searches for other key positions.
The hiring process for any administrative position at the vice presidential level is not a casual affair. For this search, the college hired an outside firm and organized a committee of administrators, staff, faculty and students to handle the nationwide headhunt and present a recommendation to President Amott.
The committee flew a fraction of the initial 40-60 applicants into Chicago for interviews before bringing their top three choices to campus at the end of last term. During each candidate’s visit, they met privately with students, faculty and administrators and held open forums.
Student Senate President and senior Charlie Harned described Ehrlich’s visit as “the Knox experience in 36 hours.” The visit was complicated by flight delays and freezing weather. By the time she made it to campus, the students she was to meet with were considering rescheduling. But Harned, one of three students on the search committee, was impressed by her energy.
“She was excited, and that was really neat,” he said.
Ehrlich is looking forward to serving as a link between Knox students and administration.
“It’s interesting because Knox has been without a Vice President for Student Development for several years now and I think it’s a very key role on any campus,” Ehrlich said.
During her visit to Knox, Ehrlich heard concerns from students who questioned whether the administration was listening to them. “I think that’s a gap that exists at Knox right now,” Ehrlich said.
Students aren’t the only members of the Knox community who stand to benefit from the new hiring. Ehrlich will oversee the entire Office of Student Development, which includes Campus Life, Health and Counseling, the Center for Intercultural Life, the Career Center and the Center for Community Service.
Dean of Students Deb Southern is looking forward to Ehrlich’s arrival and says that the vacancy in the position has put more stress on the Office of Student Development.
“We want to do the best we can to serve students in the best ways possible,” said Southern. “Anytime you can bring more staff or add new people, that helps with the tension points.“
Southern cites diversity, inclusion and Title IX as some of the main student issues on campus. These topics have resulted in student protests on campus within the past year such as the die-in last year at the Martin Luther King Jr. Convocation and a protest last May on the steps of Old Main related to the handling of Title IX cases.
“I think it’s a sign that administrators need to pay attention, because students protest when they don’t feel like they’re being heard,” Ehrlich said. She added that the culture of activism at Knox was something that drew her to the college.
“One of my priorities is to learn more about what’s behind the protests and what’s happened since then and find ways to take the dialogue to the next level to make sure students feel heard.”
Senior Catlin Watts, President of ABLE and a member of the committee, believes Ehrlich will be a good match for Knox. “I think it’s just a matter of her adjusting to Knox and the students adjusting to her being here,” she said.
Ehrlich plans on setting up open forums for students to express their opinions directly.
“My first task is to do a lot of listening,” she said.