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"Working here is much more than a job" Says Dean Kerri Jarzabski '98

By Emily McGuinness '20 FRIDAY, JUNE 7, 2019 - 12:00 PM WNE100

As an undergraduate student at Western New England studying Communications and English Literature, current Dean of First Year Students, Kerri Jarzabski knew that working with students was something she wanted to pursue long term.

Jarzabski is a first generation college student in her family and chose to attend Western New England as a freshman in 1994 because of the location and it offered Communications as a major. She was involved from the very beginning and took on student leadership roles such as Orientation Group Leader, Math Tutor, and Peer Advisor all while forming meaningful connections with her professors, deans, and advisor that pushed her toward her goals.

“I was able to double major with the guidance of Dean Theodore Zern and my advisor Jimmie Thomas” remarked Jarzabski. “And Dr. Robert Klein in the education department was instrumental in guiding me through student teaching and practicum work at Cathedral High School. The relationships I formed with deans and faculty impacted me in so many ways.”

Upon graduation, Jarzabski began as an English Teacher at Longmeadow High School until 2000.  At which time, Jarzabski pursued a Master’s Degree in Higher Education at Teachers College. Upon completion of her degree, she secured a position at Brandeis University as a Quad Director. In this role, she determined that making connections with students and supporting them in their development and pursuit of goals both academically and personally was her calling. At Brandeis, she was able to live on campus and work with close to 800 first year students and 17 Resident Advisors. “It was a great experience where I began to more fully understand the transitional issues first year students faced” Jarzabski observed.

In 2003, Jarzabski began working at the college she graduated from just a few years before – Western New England. Her position was in harmonization with Dean Zern as the Coordinator of First Year Development. “I primarily worked in an academic support role, working with peer tutors, supplemental instruction, and students in academic distress” she said. “With the introduction of the Academic Success Center, my role shifted to allow for the growth and development of the First Year Program”, of which she is the Dean of today.

Although remaining at Western New England for 16 years was never really in her long-term plans, Jarzabski has a passion for working with students and found great success while she continuously guides and supports students through their first year. She is also able to help with this in her position as the Assistant Vice President of Enrollment Management and Retention. “When I began working in the First Year Office in 2003, I truly planned to stay for only a few years and return to school.  But family called and three children kept me busy.  After 16 years in the field, with my children a bit older, it seemed like the right time to head back to the classroom” said Jarzabski.

Kerri has recently obtained her Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in Higher Education Leadership Management from the University of Massachusetts Amherst due to her pure desire for continuing her education while working at an educational institution. Looking forward, Jarzabski is already thinking about pursuing UMASS Amherst’s Ph.D. in 2021 which will be offered online.

“I believe it is important as an educator and leader to continue to review the literature and to stay attuned to the challenges and issues facing higher education and our students in order to best develop and provide the conditions in the environment to assist students in being successful in meeting their academic and personal goals” stated Jarzabski.

Jarzabski is constantly looking for ways to grow personally and professionally, with an eye towards elevating the student experience to ensure they are properly prepared for a solid future. For her, it is much more than a job working at Western New England because it is also the place she graduated from. “I have a degree from the University which brings with it an affinity and deep sense of commitment to continue to make it an exceptional place to learn and grow” she said.

Jarzabski plans to pursue her doctorate in the next couple of years, support her family, and move into even more leadership positions where she can contribute in new, meaningful ways for the growth of Western New England and continue being a strong advocate for the students.