Vice President and Dean of Students Eric Estes has announced that he will be leaving Oberlin College at the end of the 2015-2016 academic year to become the vice president for campus life and student services at Brown University.
One of the most recognized administrators on campus, since 2011 Estes has led the Division of Student Life at Oberlin, which includes 16 departments and offices as well as important support resource systems such as class deans and first- and second-year experience.
“Oberlin is a special place and community, and it always will be for me,” Estes says. “I've been incredibly fortunate to collaborate with amazing students and colleagues during the last 12 years. It was a really difficult decision to leave, but in the end Brown offered an exciting opportunity to join a community at an important time of potential growth and achievement and, like Oberlin, dedicated to many of the core values and commitments that have defined my professional journey.”
Among his many accomplishments during his tenure, he cites increasing staff in the Counseling Center and Office of Disability Services, creating a reconfigured position of Muslim Student Life Affiliate, and strengthening the class dean system by focusing two class deans—one for first and second year students and one for transfer students—as a few of his important achievements.
What Estes says he is most proud of however, is the way he and his staff have worked to make positive changes. “I’m pleased that most of our accomplishments are because we listened to and worked closely in collaboration with students,” he says. “No story of success is an I story, but progress is a We story.”
“Eric has been a phenomenal source of support and encouragement for me throughout my time at Oberlin and beyond,” says Warren Harding ’13. “His commitment to social justice and care for students is immeasurable, especially through his leadership of the Multicultural Resource Center and the Division of Student Life. I know that he will continue to do amazing work!”
In collaboration with students, Estes helped to create targeted new health and wellness resources such as student health insurance that covers gender-affirming health care, including surgeries. He also helped open a new fitness facility in South Hall and add Saturday hours at Student Health.
He also helped guide the launch of a 24/7 professional counseling phone line and increased access to both counseling and psychiatric appointments cutting wait times significantly.
Most recently Estes helped to create a student support fund to support students from lower income backgrounds with a greater range of needs.
Estes strengthened a number of existing peer programs such as Student Accessibility Advocates, who support first and second year students with disclosed disabilities; Peer Mentors, who support first generation students; and the Interfaith Student Council. Additionally, he helped support the creation of new efforts such as the Peer Support Center, which supports student emotional health and wellbeing.
Estes came to Oberlin in 2004 as an associate dean of students and director of the Multicultural Resource Center (MRC). The longest serving director in the history of the center, he hired and mentored several generations of talented Community Coordinators who have gone on to be an ED of LGBTQ and youth non-profits, tenure-track and postdoctoral faculty at peer institutions, graduate students at top Ph.D. programs, and administrators in higher education.
“I participated in the search that brought Eric to Oberlin and in the 11 years that I have worked with him, I have found him to be a colleague beyond compare,” says Meredith Gadsby, associate professor of Africana studies. “Under his leadership I have seen the MRC grow into a position of strength; an invaluable unit of the College with profound impact on the intellectual lives of students and faculty. His work with and for students has had a profound impact on the entire College community, offering support in multiple ways.
Eric’s ability to tap directly into students needs is the direct result of his capacity to listen with empathy, yet act decisively. This is a rare skill in administrative circles. I will miss him deeply. He has been a fantastic colleague, and will always be a friend.”
Under his guidance, the MRC became a critical resource that advocated for and supported student activism and organizing and brought students and faculty together around collaborative academic and community building efforts. Additionally, the MRC launched the first ever trans ally trainings for students, faculty, and staff and the My Name Is My Own series to examine the intellectual, artistic, and political contributions of queer people of color.
Estes also served as an assistant professor in Comparative American Studies (CAS) and served for a number of years on the program committees for CAS and GSFS. He taught a popular first year seminar on athletics and U.S. culture and co-taught a course that connected the late 19th-century missionary history of the college with more recent Asian American student activism.
As a leader in higher education, Estes is chair-elect of the Consortium on High Achievement and Success, the oldest and largest consortium dedicated to the academic success of students of color at institutions dedicated to liberal arts education. He has been Oberlin’s representative to the consortium since 2009 and has served as a member of its Steering Board since 2011.
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