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New interim dean of students announced; national search to begin in spring

Almost two weeks after the announcement that Daniel Cairo would step down as interim dean of students, the administration named his temporary replacement Wednesday. (Lewis Figun Westbrook)

Almost two weeks after the announcement that Daniel Cairo would step down as interim dean of students, the administration named his temporary replacement Wednesday.

Dr. Glenn Smith — former provost and vice president for student engagement and innovation at the National University of Natural Medicine — will begin in the position at Westminster College effective Nov. 9.

“Dr. Smith brings expertise […] with a particular emphasis on the student experience at both undergraduate and graduate levels,” President Dobkin said in an email announcement. “His work as a seasoned, innovative, and creative higher education leader exemplifies core Westminster values such as integrity, diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

Smith will serve as interim dean of students for the remainder of the 2020-21 academic year.

The administration expects to begin a national search for Cairo’s official replacement sometime during the Spring semester.

“Dr. Smith will serve in this capacity through the 2020–21 academic year, with the possibility of extension,” Dobkin said. “I anticipate beginning a national search early next spring.”

The dean of students office has seen somewhat frequent turnover at Westminster College, with Smith serving as the fourth dean of students — or interim dean of students — since Mark Ferne’s departure in October 2018.

“I don’t think it’s a trend,” President Dobkin told The Forum Oct. 26.

After Ferne, Karnell McConnell-Black stepped into the position — which he had held at the interim level before. McConnell-Black announced his departure in June 2020, officially transferring to a liberal arts college in Oregon Aug. 1.

Interim dean of students Dan Cairo assumed the position for the Fall 2020 semester, officially announcing Oct. 15 that he would transfer to the University of Utah.

“It leaves a huge hole in student affairs,” Dobkin said. “It’s why I’ve been working on an interim solution to have some seasoned help in that position between now and the conclusion of another search.”

Both McConnell-Black and Cairo finished a doctoral program at the University of Utah “in the same cohort,” according to President Dobkin — which resulted in the back-to-back transfers to different colleges.

“Once you do that, it opens up other possibilities for you,” President Dobkin told The Forum. “In a sense, [the departures] were linked that way.”

Because they finished their degrees in the same class, President Dobkin said it wasn’t “too surprising” their departures were around the same time.

“Yes, I’m sad. I’ve given Dan a hard time about it every day,” President Dobkin said with a laugh.


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Cami Mondeaux is a senior communication major with a minor in sociology. She’s worked in journalism for three years completing several internships in radio as well as a print internship stationed in Washington, D.C. Now, Cami works as a reporter and digital content producer for KSL NewsRadio covering breaking news and local government. When she doesn’t have her nose stuck in the headlines, Cami enjoys listening to podcasts, drinking iced coffee and continuing her quest to find the tastiest burrito in Salt Lake City.

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