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Letter: Reflections on one year leading ResLife

To the Editor:

As I reflect on my first year at Brown as senior associate dean and senior director of residential life, including the changes I have been able to enact, I am comforted by the community I have been able to create — for myself, for my family, for my team and for students at Brown. In September 2021, My acceptance of this offer was deeply rooted in Campus Life's commitment to the student experience by providing resources to increase our staffing model, redesign the student leadership role and encourage the development of new residential facilities. I joined a newly-restructured team at the Office of Residential Life, bursting with an energy similar to first-day-of-school jitters. I’ve had the honor of serving in a variety of roles at colleges and universities across the country, but my excitement was heightened as I stepped into my office in Graduate Center E for the first time. As I turned the key, I knew I was at the start of an experience like no other. I was offered this role to make a significant and lasting change in the lives of the students at Brown, reshaping their residential experience. This mission sounds daunting — and felt that way for a while — but this year has proven to be one of the most rewarding I’ve had as a student affairs practitioner. 

Whenever you begin a new job, you should be prepared for a few challenges, as my experience has demonstrated. In one year, I have experienced events of biblical proportions — feast (successfully filling critical staff vacancies), flood (students displaced by water in Andrews Hall and Archibald-Bronson) and famine (a challenging spring housing selection). I was afforded the opportunity to support Brown’s commitment to creating a home (away from home) for our Afghan scholars. I believe that my best learning happens when I am met with challenges, ones that test my patience, stretch my skill set and force me to sit with a problem until I find a solution. This past year has been a humbling one. I wanted to come in and change Brown, but now realize that Brown has changed me — for the better. 

I am more patient, communicative, pensive and collaborative — and I remain genuinely committed to enhancing the residential student experience at Brown. Most folx may experience a life-changing event only once in a given year, or not at all. Last year, I moved my family from west to east, started a new job and celebrated my 50th birthday — which comes with its own set of quiet, reflective moments. This year has taught me to be gentler with myself and to remember that Rome was not built in a day. I came here with lots of ideas to reshape and reimagine the work we do in ResLife. My quiet and humbling reflections since have resulted in exciting initiatives and opportunities that I truly believe will improve the overall student experience at Brown. 

My vision is simple — create a residential experience for students that is welcoming, supportive, and engaging. I want students to make Brown their home away from home. With my team in ResLife, I want to create opportunities for students to feel connected to this campus in ways that invoke a deeper sense of belonging in a community that feels comforting and familiar, like a family. It’s the dawn of the Ice Age. Are you ready?

Dean Brenda Ice 

Senior Associate Dean and Senior Director of Residential Life 



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