Better Know a Dean! with Diane Anderson

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Diane Anderson is the Acting Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. The previous dean in that position, Garikai Campbell, is serving as the Acting Dean of Students while a permanent replacement for Jim Larimore is found; Anderson, a professor in the Educational Studies department, moved up to fill his spot. The Daily Gazette sat down with her to talk about her new job and life in general.

DG: Have you encountered any difficulties in your transition to dean?

DA: There are still only 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week! I have had no time to redecorate and I would like to change the CEO look of my office.

Daily Gazette: What is the most valuable aspect of academics at Swarthmore?

Diane Anderson: I love the twenty course rule, division requirements, PE requirements, writing requirements, and NSEP requirements. It all accumulates into a liberal arts experience and promotes breadth, while the major promotes depth. The faculty is another component. They are wonderful, passionate, and care about their teaching and their students. Of course the third component is our intellectually curious and hard-working students.

DG: Is there something you wish more students would take advantage of?

DA: Academically I wish more students would take courses outside their comfort zone just to try something new and not worry about grades or playing it safe. Outside of academics I wish students would walk in Crum woods or visit Chester and Philadelphia. It̢۪s important for students to maintain perspective on their life at Swarthmore.

DG: What inspired your interest in education?

DA: In college I volunteered in an inner city housing development. It was my first experience teaching and after a few weeks I knew what the rest of my life would look like. Teaching tapped into both my desire to make the world a better place and my talents. Growing up, I was also fortunate to be exposed to female principals and superintendents, which showed me that women could be not only be teachers, but educational leaders.

DG: How did knowing so much about child psychology and education affect you when raising a family?

DA: It made me leave middle school teaching. I loved teaching middle school, but I couldn̢۪t teach and live with middle school students at same time. I taught for ten years before having children and I would watch my students, especially those who were grounded and kind and willing to learn, both in the classroom and outside, and then I would watch their families to see what parents were doing to produce such wonderful children. I very intentionally looked for role models.

DG: What is your favorite book?

DA: As a child I loved the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales and as an adult I enjoy the Manheim translation. I also love They Came like Swallows by William Maxwell; it is a beautifully written portrait of family.

DG: What is a book every college student should read?

DA: I would recommend the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales and Listening is An Act of Love: A Celebration of American Life from the StoryCorps Project by Dave Isay. You have to listen to the audio format because it has the original voices. I am assigning excerpts for my class in the spring.

DG: You were only asked to hold this position for a year. What will happen in the future?

DA: No one, including myself, knows what will happen after this year. But I am very pleased to have this opportunity to try something different.

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