Kayla Krupnick Walsh (she/her) joined Minerva Schools at KGI as the interim Dean of Students in September 2020 and permanently took the position mid-December. She succeeds former Dean James Lyda, who departed from Minerva in May 2020, and Teri Cannon, who temporarily held the position throughout the summer as Minerva adjusted to the global pandemic and implemented plans for the Fall semester.
Dean Kayla (hereafter referred to as Kayla) first heard about Minerva back in 2013 or 2014, when, as Dean of Students at Golden Gate University (GGU), she was looking for new dorms in San Francisco for GGU’s international students. So, she reached out to Teri Cannon regarding the use of Minerva’s 851 California Street residence hall. Kayla describes her experience finding out about Minerva as “love at first hearing,” drawn to Minerva as a community, “looking to change how we view education.” The passion and excitement that marked Kayla’s impression of Minerva resurfaced during her interview for her current role, which she described more like a conversation and a ‘process’ than a regular interview. Her desire to work alongside colleagues so invested in Minerva was the prominent theme of her interview.
According to her introductory video on the Community Portal, Kayla is an Oakland, California native, where she lives with her husband and two kids. She has previous experience working in different capacities at traditional and non-traditional educational institutions. This includes being a career counseling intern at The New School, Assistant Director at the Wasserman Center for Career Development in New York University, and seven years as Dean of Students at GGU. GGU is an adult-focused institute where classes are held online, like Minerva, as well as in-person, although practitioners in a given field teach the classes instead of academics.
Compared to her previous experiences, Kayla’s experience as Dean of Students at Minerva has stood out due to Minerva’s start-up culture, where there is little hierarchy and a lot of openness to feedback. According to Kayla, new ideas can be implemented quickly, instead of being put through various approval committees and materializing much later. Kayla also noted that the level to which Minerva wants students to take initiative and be part of curating their university experience is an improvement from what she’s seen in other universities, while acknowledging that students may not think it is enough.
Kayla comes from a family of educators, including her mom, aunt, and grandfather, who taught in community colleges and Oakland public schools. She emphasized that their focus on equity influences her working style in any organization, especially around areas of access. In the context of Minerva and for current students specifically, Kayla describes access as the factors which help students feel connected to an institution and be able to utilize its resources, such as access to staff and faculty, access to information, and a general feeling that all students, and not just some students, are getting what they need from the institution. Recounting her experience as a graduate student, Kayla mentioned difficulty around these issues of access, such as connecting with faculty and staff, feeling heard, and getting what she needed to be academically successful —challenges she hopes current Minerva students do not have to face. Additionally, Kayla’s Counseling Psychology background also shapes her role as Dean, where she thinks about what people’s motivations might be to understand different points of view in her everyday work.
Kayla describes her goal as Dean of Students to nurture joy: the joy of learning, the joy of community, and to help us individually and collectively answer the question, how do we bring happiness and joy into our learning experiences at Minerva? In this regard, the Dean of Students can also be understood, in Kayla’s words, as “Chief Community Officer”, who builds a foundation for a positive learning community, such as by establishing norms, procedures, and community ground rules, and making sure that everyone involved adheres to those rules. With the exception of financial aid and academic affairs, the Dean of Students is responsible for facilitating an integrated learning environment across all areas of student life. This includes our training for intercultural competency and sexual harassment prevention and remedy, as well as connecting our Student Life programming with our academic learning goals. Key to her role is also to empower current students, advocate for them, and remind them to think about their needs in the larger context of Minerva as an institution.
When asked about her favorite COVID-19 hobby (i.e., something she started or continued doing over the last few months and which makes her happy in general), Kayla mentioned Thursday night hangouts with her cousin around a firepit, eating s’mores to their hearts’ delight.
Whether students want to bond with Kayla over a shared love of s’mores or talk more seriously about their needs and how Minerva can support them, Kayla hopes to be an accessible resource and welcomes students to reach out to her through her office hours, Slack (@Kayla Krupnick Walsh) or email at [email protected]
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