As the new Dean of Students at Ross Upper School, Bonny Smith is committed to helping students thrive to achieve academic and personal success. In this post, Bonny talks about her approach to the role and her priorities for the new school year.
Describe your role at Ross. My first priorities are to ensure the safety and well-being of our students and to foster a sense of community to support the students throughout their time at Ross. Part of the process is being proactive about making students aware of why we have realistic rules and boundaries in place; it empowers them to take responsibility for their actions and success and to understand the impact those actions will have on others. When everyone is on the same page, it also contributes to a connected environment that the students know they can depend on.
What are some of the first initiatives you are tackling? A major area of focus is the Advisory program. I’m working closely with our faculty, counselors, and Wellness instructors to build a successful program that contributes to the physical and mental health of our students. Students meet in a group with their advisor twice per week and have Wellness once. The groups are a mix of grade levels and boarding and day students, so in addition to providing a forum for students to express themselves, it also helps widen their network of friends on campus.
Although students can introduce topics, we do have an established focus on sustainability for the Advisory program throughout the school year. The first trimester is about personal sustainability, and they will discuss topics like transitioning to a new environment or personal responsibility for things like wearing the correct uniform or being proactive about healthy eating. In the second trimester, they’ll discuss cultural sustainability, and it will be an opportunity to get to know their classmates’ culture and customs. The third trimester will be about environmental sustainability, and they’ll examine what’s happening in the local and global community and identify opportunities to get involved to help bring about positive change.
We’re also actively looking for ways to integrate day and boarding students, such as encouraging more people to participate in weekend trips and Residential Life activities or working with the student council representatives to help get the word out about new student life initiatives.
Finally, you’ll start to see other things popping up designed to improve student life, school spirit, and an overall sense of “family” at Ross.
How has your past experience prepared you for your role at Ross? I’ve been an educator and administrator for 26 years, and my career has provided wonderful opportunities to work in diverse, international communities, first at the American School in El Salvador (where I spent three nights in a bathtub to avoid guerilla gunfire), followed by posts in Guatemala, Bangladesh, and Panama. I’ve also taught in both private and public schools in Arizona, and was a Department of Corrections social worker, school counselor, and curriculum coordinator.
I’m eager to share my experiences in my role as Dean of Students and mother to two Ross students. I certainly know what it’s like to find your place in an international community, and we’ll look for ways to celebrate our many nationalities and cultures.