Getting to Know Suzanne Farrand: Assistant Dean of Students

Suzanne Farrand
December 14, 2020

Congratulations to Suzanne Farrand on her new role as assistant dean of students for CPS. She brings a wealth of experience to the College’s administrative team, with more than fifteen years of diverse experience in higher education, including expertise with academic programs, policies, advising and of course, student affairs. She has an Ed.M. from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.

Now that Ms. Farrand has been in her new role for more than two months, we wanted to give our readers a chance to get to know her a little better.

Q: As the newly appointed assistant dean of students for CPS, what does your position entail?

A: In this role, I oversee the CPS Office for Student Engagement, which includes the student success coaches, as well as the director of career services. I also continue to manage the Graduate School of Political Management (GSPM) student services team. I work closely with the faculty program directors on academic policy issues. I’ll also now be the point person for the CPS commencement ceremony each spring. As part of the senior leadership team, I’ll provide input to the dean on important issues facing the College and represent CPS on university-wide committees.

Q: You are new to this position, but you aren’t new to GW?

A: That’s right, I’ve been at GW since 2007, which is hard to believe. I started off as the director of student services for GSPM and then moved into the newly created director of academic administration role, which included more program and faculty support. The combination of knowing both the student and faculty/program side of things has served me well as I’ve transitioned into the assistant dean role. While I know the GSPM programs inside and out, it’s been really interesting for me to learn more about all of the incredible work going on across CPS.

Q: What has it been like to transition to this new role during the pandemic?

A: There have definitely been some challenges that are unique to the pandemic, both in terms of the issues that I’ve been working on and also some of the more logistical aspects.

For example, there’s one member of my team whom I’ve never met in person and several others whom I’ve only met once or twice. Ideally, it would be best to establish these relationships in person, but fortunately, technology has helped to bridge the gap.

Q: Any initial thoughts on your vision for the student services department under your leadership?

A: I really see this unit as serving as a key resource and advocate for students. We have an excellent team in place, who are committed to our students’ success. I want to make sure that as many students as possible are taking advantage of these services so that no one falls through the cracks. Looking ahead, things that I want to work on include making sure that we’re tracking students to improve retention and also finding ways to keep students engaged, especially while we’re still in a virtual environment.

Q: What advice do you have for current CPS students during the pandemic?

A: I think my advice for students now is similar to the advice that I always give, which is to communicate and never hesitate to reach out for help. The difference now is that it is even more critical with all of the challenges presented by the pandemic. CPS is a college designed for non-traditional students so we understand that they are often dealing with personal and professional issues that may interfere with their studies. Our team is always ready and willing to help students navigate these challenges so I encourage them to reach out and take advantage of the resources available to them. We are always here to answer questions, address concerns, and listen to suggestions.    

Q: How did your formal education & work experience prepare you for your CPS leadership role?

A: I have a B.A. in Spanish from the University of Pittsburgh and an Ed.M. from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. While I took some classes in higher education leadership while in graduate school, I think that my professional experience has really prepared me to take on this role. I have over 15 years of experience working in higher education, both at GW and previously at Georgetown. I’ve also worked in marketing and consulting at private firms, so I’ve had the opportunity to experience an array of leadership styles. I’ve learned a lot about what works well and what doesn’t so I try to incorporate those lessons into my own approach.

Q: What is your most memorable GW moment?

A: Having been at GW for so long, it would be difficult to choose just one, as I’ve had so many #onlyatGW moments, but some of my favorites include: commencement on the National Mall with Jose Andres and Kerry Washington; attending events across campus with speakers such as Bill Clinton, Jon Stewart, Bob Woodward, James Comey, and Nancy Pelosi; joining my colleagues to witness historical events just blocks from our office, ranging from the Pope’s visit to the Caps’ championship parade.  

Q: Are you native to the D.C. metro area? If not, where are you from and what brought you to the area? 

A: I grew up outside of Philadelphia, went to college in Pittsburgh, and then moved to Boston, where I lived for about five years. My husband is from D.C. and was working in the area so I moved here to be closer to him. That was 17 years ago so this is definitely home now, but Philly, Pittsburgh, and Boston will always have a special place in my heart.

Q: Tell us about your family and pets.

A: I live in Alexandria, Va. with my husband and our three sons, who are 6, 9 and 11. We don’t have any pets, but the boys have been lobbying hard for a dog so that may change at some point. It would have to be a girl though!

Q: How do you like to spend your free time? 

A: Outside of work and family, I don’t have a ton of free time, but I do like to bake (chocolate chip cookies are my specialty), exercise (barre, yoga, and walking), watch Netflix (I’m currently obsessed with “The Crown”), and pre-pandemic I liked to travel, especially to see friends.

Q: What is something no one would guess about you?

A: I’m a big sports fan and very competitive. Although I don’t really play anymore (except in the back yard), I coach my sons’ soccer and basketball teams and like to root for my favorite teams, especially in the playoffs. Having lived in so many great sports towns, there’s no shortage of teams to choose from!

Suzanne Farrand’s bio on the CPS website.