Hamline’s ever-changing community

Hamline looks to the future in the wake of a new slew of faculty and staff departures.


Lydia Meier, Senior Reporter

Sena Ross

The 2021 fall semester at Hamline saw significant changes to the makeup of campus due to faculty retirements and sabbaticals, as well as staff departures. These departures included Residential Life coordinator Gaith Hijazin, Social Justice director Valerie Chepp and Theatre & Dance chair Bill Wallace, which the Oracle reported at the time. Over the course of the fall semester and the beginning of 2022, Hamline saw more departures from staff and faculty, which has led to changing workloads for current staff and new hires.

In the Admissions Office, Hamline Experience Coordinator Lauren Loeffler left and was replaced by Deb Ahlquist. 

New Student Programs (NSP) lost Assistant Director Becky Kaarbo, and current Hamline senior Crystal Camacho, a student worker in NSP, acknowledged that there are a lot of unanswered questions at the moment. 

“Our team of four have done a great job maintaining the program and the work we do,” Camacho said.

Over the course of the fall 2021 semester, the office of Residential Life lost several lead staff members–from coordinators Matt Barr and Troy Schillinger to the director, Javier Gutierrez. To smooth over the transition, student workers took on more responsibilities, like Hamline junior and Residential Life lead office assistant Neva Miller.

“All four of us have been given projects here and there that we were unfamiliar with and had to learn on the fly,” Miller said. “I think it ultimately strengthened our connection as a team because we all looked to each other for support at one point or another.”

The office worked quickly, and at this point, all vacant Residential Life positions have been filled with Yolanda Armstrong being promoted to director. Evan Fisher-Damsgard is now the operations coordinator, and John Schmidt and Rebecca Rosario are serving as area coordinators.

Gutierrez, Barr and Shillinger all departed for new positions elsewhere, and although Miller misses them, she’s excited about the new energy in the office.

“There was a bit of a transition period after they left, but I really commend the new team we have for how quickly they picked it up and kept the ball rolling,” Miller said.

Director of Public Safety Mel Heikkinen also left Hamline for a new position on January 31, 2022. Although this has not been formally announced by the university, the Department of Public Safety and Heikkinen have both confirmed the departure.

“[Heikkinen] brought us to the place where she was able to and I think we grew as a university… I’m sad to lose her on one end, but on the other side of it, too, it’s, this is the right opportunity for her to move forward with and if that’s what she was wanting, then, our role is to support, my role as her former supervisor was to support her and taking that next step in her career,” Dean of Students Patti Kersten said. 

Academic departments are also facing these changes. Professor Aida Audeh, chair of the Studio Arts and Art History departments retired after the fall 2021 semester. The new chair of the Studio Arts Department is professor Allison Baker, who says she’s excited about her new role.

“My goal over the next three years as chair of Studio Arts is for every student to have a truly high impact internship experience. So that is something that my colleagues and I are all working towards,” Baker said. “I think that is going to be the thing that really sets us apart from all the other schools in the area.”

Although changes are often unexpected and complicated, Camacho, Miller, Kersten and Baker all voice optimism for the future of their departments.