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New Dean of Students announced

by Marketing & Communications,

Willamette University is excited to welcome its new dean of students for community care and inclusion, Abbas Hill.

Abbas Hill headshot

Previously the assistant dean of student life and director of residence life and housing at Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island, Hill will serve as a leader in the division of Student Affairs who will work with the campus community to create environments and initiatives that support students’ holistic learning, wellbeing and sense of belonging, as well as the development of equitable, inclusive communities that foster student success. He starts July 1.

Hill is known among colleagues for his kind and compassionate nature, a true student advocate who never loses sight of the lived experience of those around him. He wants students at Willamette to feel like they can approach him and that he’s there for them. 

“Their experience — and whether they feel included or have a sense of belonging — means a great deal to me,” he said. “I know what it’s like when it doesn’t seem like your voice and perspective are heard.” 

Part of Hill’s new role involves overseeing equity and inclusion initiatives and supporting undocumented and first-generation students. His personal experience helps him relate in this capacity: As a first-generation student who attended Cleveland School of the Arts in Ohio, Hill, the oldest of his three siblings, juggled high school, after-school theater productions and part-time work (two jobs during the summer). He didn’t have the roadmap or the mindset he needed to succeed in the beginning — he didn’t realize the importance of good study habits until it was too late and he fell behind, he said. 

Lessons like these inspired him throughout his career to bridge the gap for students at institutions across the nation. At Purdue University Calumet (now Purdue Northwest) in Hammond, Indiana, Hill helped build the housing department from the ground up and essentially developed its first residence hall association. Based on his advice, students rewrote their governing documents, held retreats and thoughtfully reconstructed its executive board structure, leading to recognition from the National Association of College and University Residence Halls in 2011 for outstanding growth and development in service to its residential community. 

“Student leadership development is really huge for me, and it’s an essential part of the college experience,” he said. 

At Willamette, Hill will oversee student affairs leaders in the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the Gender and Resource Advocacy Center, religious and spiritual life, residence life and housing, and student conduct. He will also serve as a deputy Title IX coordinator and the chair of the Care Team, a multidisciplinary team that works to assist students in need of personal or academic support, among many other duties. 

Fostering an inclusive learning environment has long been a priority for Hill. At Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, Hill worked with multicultural advisors — students serving on resident assistant teams who are responsible for being resources to underrepresented students — to coordinate “multicultural educational excursions” to establishments such as the Holocaust Memorial Center and a Jim Crow museum. In Rhode Island, as part of a curricular approach to learning within the residence halls, resident assistants at Roger Williams held one-on-one, “intentional conversations” with their students so they met learning goals like developing cultural humility. 

But, as is true for any effort related to equity, diversity and inclusion, the work is never finished, he said. 

“There’s never a point in time where you reach a destination — we are always arriving,” he said. “We absolutely always need to be doing the work.” 

At Willamette, he aims to be an equal resource to students and his staff, as well as set a positive, helpful tone that challenges everyone to do great work. 

“We all have a responsibility to be the best versions of ourselves when it comes to treating people with the utmost respect and kindness, and that’s one of the reasons why I love being in student affairs — I get to embody that in my work,” he said. “In higher education, it especially needs to be in practice in order for students to feel like they belong.”

Lisa Landreman, vice president for student affairs, thanks the search committee for its hard work and commitment to finding an outstanding person for the new position. 

“Abbas is a thoughtful, community-minded person who thinks strategically about his work,” she said. “He cares deeply about students and issues of equity and wellbeing. We are thrilled to welcome him to the campus community and to the division of student affairs.” 

Search committee

Co-chairs

  • Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Lisa Landreman 
  • Associate Dean for Faculty Development and Professor of Chemistry Sarah Kirk 

Staff

  • University Chaplain Karen Wood, also serving as interim coordinator of university equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives 
  • Student Services Manager Maegan Dunlap, College of Law
  • Assistant Director Career Management Jonathan Scriminti, Atkinson Graduate School of Management, 
  • Director of Athletics Rob Passage 
  • Director of Academic Support Kelvin Clark 

Faculty

  • Assistant Professor Physics Daniel Borrero Echeverry 
  • Associate Professor of Civic Communication and Media Maegan Parker Brooks

Students

  • Residence Hall Association President Aidan Lawrence-Devine '22 
  • Panhellenic President Grasiela Quevedo-Ramos '21

About Willamette University

Based in Salem, Oregon, Willamette is the premier private university in the Pacific Northwest. Willamette’s beautiful, historic campus — located across the street from the Oregon State Capitol and co-located with Tokyo International University of America — features a residential undergraduate College of Liberal Arts and two professional graduate schools: the College of Law and the Atkinson Graduate School of Management.

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