Somerville moves for family reasons

Dean of Students Dione Somerville

Dean of Students Dione Somerville

Scott Macdonald

Dean of Students Dione Somerville said Thursday that “being closer to family” was her prime motive for accepting a position as vice president of student affairs at Pennsylvania’s Bloomsburg University.

Somerville, who grew up in Michigan and spent much of her higher-education career in Ohio, called the environment at Bloomsburg “very inviting.”

“I’ll continue to discover there, and begin to see what challenges and opportunities are there for me,” she said.

The Bloomsburg website reports that Somerville will begin her new position in July. The position has been held by an interim vice president since the death of Preston Herring, its previous holder. Bloomsburg has 10,091 enrolled students, according to its website.

Somerville has been the dean of students at Iowa State since January 2007. Earlier this month, it was announced that Somerville was a finalist for the position of vice chancellor for student affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

Vice President of Student Affairs Thomas Hill said Wednesday that he is happy for Somerville.

“She’s moving from dean of students to vice president of student affairs,” Hill said. “That’s a great career move for her.”

During her time at Iowa State, Somerville has reorganized her division and expanded the branches she supervises, which include the Academic Success Center and the Multicultural Students Association.

“We’ve done a lot of things that we can be very proud of,” Somerville said. “What helped provide the foundation for all of our accomplishments, really, was re-envisioning the Dean of Students office overall to make sure it was structured to meet student needs.”

Somerville pointed out a few of her office’s other accomplishments, such as its demystification of the judicial process with Judicial Services and its addition of a full-time LGBT student services coordinator.

“Our student assistance function is truly exemplary,” Somerville said. “And I’m proud to say that we have the best practices in the nation.”

Somerville came to Iowa State from Lorain County Community College in Elysia, Ohio, where she worked as director of Enrollment Services. She said the positive impression Iowa State gave her during a 2007 visit impelled her to accept a position with the university.

“What really sold me on the institution was the student body,” Somerville said. “A lot of times when you say that to students, they go ‘Yeah, whatever,’ but it really is the truth. We have a great student body, and when I interviewed [at ISU], the level of engagement, their excitement, their pride in the institution — all of those things were so evident.”

As Somerville departs, Iowa State will have to find a new dean of students. Hill is in charge of finding her replacement. He said the search for her successor is still in the planning stages.

“We’re trying to do an assessment to determine what the needs are, put some things together,” Hill said.

Hill explained that, when looking for a suitable candidate, he looks for someone who understands and can relate to ISU students. He also said that due to the complexity of the position being filled, it may take a while to find Somerville’s replacement.

“The job’s a pretty complex position, so we really need to be thoughtful and careful of the search process and those sort of things,” Hill said. “We will be very diligent about getting a good person to be the dean of students.”

Hill said that he does not expect to find a new dean of students before the fall semester begins in August. Until a new dean of students is in place, a interim dean will hold the position. That interim dean has yet to be named.

“We will clearly be very conscious about not having things fall through the cracks in the interim period, between [the time when] Dione Somerville departs and the time we name a new dean,” Hill said. “That period is very critical. I understand that, and we will be very clear about having things not fall through the cracks during that period.”

Somerville says she believes that her successor will be able to build on her accomplishments to improve services for ISU students.

“[The Dean of Students office is] in a great place,” she said. “We’ve got a great foundation in terms of being poised for the future . . . . This office is knowledgeable and talented, and has not only the capability to do great things, but the passion as well.”