Meet the New Dean of Students
August 11, 2006
W. Houston Dougharty
W. Houston Dougharty, most recently associate dean for student services at the University of Puget Sound, has been named Lewis & Clark’s new dean of students. Prior to joining UPS, he served as associate dean of students at Iowa State University. He’s also held leadership positions at the University of California at Santa Barbara and Western Washington University. He and his partner, Kimberly, have two children, Allie and Fen. He took up his new post on July 17.
What does the W. stand for in your name? (Laughs.) It doesn’t stand for anything, really. My parents wanted me to be called Houston, but they also wanted me to have my grandfather’s initials. He was a William, but I’m just a W.
You grew up in New Mexico. What was that like? Santa Fe was a phenomenal place to grow up. When I was a kid, it was still funky and historical. Now it’s a weekend community for L.A. and Dallas. But it will always have great architecture, history, and food. I love going back.
Do you come from a big family? I’m the youngest of four. My dad was a Southern Baptist minister. In some ways, being a dean of students is like being a minister–but with a different type of congregation.
How did you end up in the Pacific Northwest? One of my best friends in high school decided to go to college at Lewis & Clark. My family had always stayed in the Southwest for college, but I knew I wanted to do something different. My friend loved Lewis & Clark. She said it’s green, it’s friendly, and it’s laid-back (not unlike the Southwest), but it’s different enough that you know you’ve gone away.
Being an independent sort, I didn’t want to go where she was. I looked at Willamette and Whitman, but ended up at UPS instead.
We went back and forth between each other’s campuses a lot, though, so I got to know Lewis & Clark.
What’s your “elevator speech” for what a dean of students does? I want to help students and colleagues get the resources they need to create a really exciting and supportive learning environment. Traditionally, student affairs has been responsible for activities outside the classroom. But more and more, the trend is toward student affairs and faculty working together to create a challenging learning environment. I also want to help students become their own best advocates–intellectually, socially, personally.
At what moment did you know you’d take the job at Lewis & Clark? I remember meeting with a terrific group of student leaders in a meeting room in Templeton. We talked for about an hour and a half, and I thoroughly enjoyed them. They were incredibly bright, eager students who were looking for partnership. They had great ideas about where they wanted student life to go, and they were looking for someone who could share that vision. About halfway through that session, I thought, “If I’m offered this job, I’m going to take it.”
What’s first on your radar? My first priority is to learn all I can about the Lewis & Clark culture–to build relationships with students, faculty, and staff. My job is to help figure out what we do expertly but also to identify what gaps there are and how we can fill them. You need positive relationships to effect positive change.
What do you do for fun? I’m a big sports fan. I’ll be in the stands for every Lewis & Clark sports event. I’m also an information nut. I get up an hour before everyone else in the house just to read three or four newspapers. I want a sense of what the context is … what people will be talking about that day.
You’re also a theatre buff, right? I got interested in theatre in high school, but I really fell into it as a student at Puget Sound. Even back then, I had a beard. I was one of the few 18-year-olds who could pull off playing a middle-aged man. I did 14 or 15 shows as an undergraduate and also some professional shows in Tacoma.
Are there any parallels between theatre and student affairs? A lot of what we do is set the stage for student success. I think we’re producers, directors, and designers. We create environments where students can act out different parts and become the people they want to be.
I also like the metaphor of an ensemble. At Lewis & Clark, there’s so much potential for representatives from academics, athletics, student affairs, and other areas to work together. Every role is different but equally important. We should all be a part of this creative, collaborative, unselfish work.