Suzy M. Nelson, a seasoned academic administrator with broad experience in the areas of student affairs and residential life, has been named Harvard College’s associate dean for residential life, effective Sept. 19.
Nelson comes to Harvard from Cornell University, where she has served since 1998 as Robert G. Engel Associate Dean of Students for Fraternity and Sorority Affairs. She succeeds Thomas A. Dingman, who earlier this year was named Harvard’s dean of freshmen.
“Suzy Nelson’s mix of skills and experience, honed over 20 years working in student life, will greatly enhance our ongoing efforts to provide an outstanding and seamless residential experience for our 6,700 undergraduates,” says Benedict H. Gross, dean of Harvard College and Leverett Professor of Mathematics. “We are delighted to have recruited someone with such a strong and diverse residential life background.”
Nelson will oversee all matters relating to Harvard’s freshman dormitories and its 12 residential Houses, which accommodate 97 percent of all undergraduates. While ensuring that all Houses and dorms offer services of consistently high quality, Nelson will help plan for upcoming housing changes owing to expanded study abroad programs as well as the possible construction of new Houses in Allston.
“This is an exciting time to join Harvard College, and I am enthusiastic about this opportunity to unify students, faculty, and staff in transforming undergraduate student life,” Nelson says. “Given the talented members of the community and the available resources, I hope to cement Harvard’s reputation as a national leader offering an unparalleled residential experience.”
At Cornell, Nelson managed the registration, recognition, advisement and evaluation of 67 Greek-letter organizations with roughly 3,500 student members each year. During her tenure she introduced new structure and oversight to the university’s fraternity and sorority system, implemented a “Creating Chapters of Excellence” pilot program, and raised substantial funds to broaden this initiative. She also managed 16 Cornell-owned facilities, many of which were renovated under her watch.
Before joining Cornell, Nelson worked at Syracuse University from 1993 to 1998, serving first as assistant director of leadership and student organizations and then as director of Greek life. She has also held student life positions at Siena College in Loudonville, N.Y., and Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio, and has served as an instructor at various universities, including Cornell.
Nelson holds a B.A. from the State University of New York at Potsdam, awarded in 1980, and an M.A. from Bowling Green State University, awarded in 1984. She is currently completing her Ph.D. in higher education at Syracuse University.