The new Dean of Students’ door is always open

Nicole Noffsinger-Frazier steps into new role as Dean of Students with desire to promote the wellbeing of students. Photo courtesy of Noffsinger-Frazier.

By Isabella Francois
Executive Staff

Nicole Noffsinger-Frazier (C’97) recently became the new Dean of Students, and while this transition is taking place during a chaotic and unpredictable time, her vast array of experiences as a member of the Sewanee community prepared her for this new role. 

“I was a student here in the 90s, I graduated in 1997, and then I have been back working at the University for the last decade. I’ve worn a variety of hats. I’ve been a staff psychologist when I first came back, and I worked in the counseling center. I’ve also taught in the psychology department, and then most recently, my title was Associate Dean of Health and Wellness, so I was overseeing our wonderful new wellness center,” Noffsinger-Frazier said. While she did not foresee this transition to the Dean’s office, Noffsinger-Frazier is actively welcoming this opportunity to create change in her new office.

“[The role of Dean of Students] was an opportunity that was presented to me by the Vice-Chancellor, and I was delighted to accept. I think what was attractive to me about the transition was again having an opportunity to really lift up and centralize the work that I was doing in student well-being within this office. I am excited about the idea of being a Dean of Students that could perhaps shift the direction of this office,” she said. 

Many students view the Dean’s office as a place that they only go when they are in trouble, which has created a division between the students and the Dean in the past. Even Noffsinger-Frazier remembers that people often had a negative relationship with the Dean during her time as a student.  

“I really want to change that relationship with students. I want the Dean of Students office to be seen as a place where you can go for help and support and also a place where you can get resources around well-being. […] My hope is that the Dean of Students office is really seen as a partner to students,” she said. 

Noffsinger-Frazier hopes to partner with students in a few specific ways. First, she wants to make it known that the best way for her to help students succeed, is to know what students need and what they are thinking. 

“I am trying to carve out time in my schedule to have meetings with students because I think the priority for me is to shape the mission and vision of the Student Life division to best meet the needs of students, and I can’t do that if I am not meeting with and connecting with students. I also want students to know that I have an open door, and I am willing to meet in person rather than on Zoom,” she said. 

Additionally, Noffsinger-Frazier is incredibly excited to bring her focus on student wellness from her past jobs at the University into her new position. ” We’ve been working on a website for the last year that is focused on improving student flourishing and well-being, and we’re planning on rolling that out this semester,” she elaborated.“We’re also looking at a project to design intentional communities within residential life that will also be focused on cultivating student flourishing. I’m really just excited to see those projects that I’ve been working on for several years really start to launch.” 

With the stress and uncertainty of COVID-19, the focus on mental health and overall student well-being, is more important than ever. This is why she wants to hear from the students, the people who are facing university life during a pandemic head-on.  

Noffsinger-Frazier’s focus on mental health and student well-being will help create change. It will also contribute to overall student success, which is another one of her goals as Dean of Students, to promote the students’ success by helping them become the best versions of themselves.   

“I really want to help students succeed,” she said,“That’s the main reason why I’m in this job, and that’s the main reason why I’m at Sewanee, and I want that to be central to my purpose.” 

For Noffsinger-Frazier, the Dean’s office is not a place where students go to get in trouble, but rather a place to help them learn and ultimately become the best versions of themselves.   

“You can’t be academically successful, you can’t be athletically successful, you can’t be an effective leader if you first haven’t done your own internal work to figure out who you are. That’s what gets me out of bed every morning and gets me excited to come into work every day,” Noffsinger-Frazier concludes.