Transition Can Be Tough

BryanCoker0913Dear Parents and Families,

Over the years, I have had the privilege and honor of assisting thousands of students and their families with the transition to college life, and hopefully I’ve learned a thing or two along the way. Below you will find some tips and thoughts I have gathered over those years. The transition has already begun (in case you haven’t noticed), so what should you expect this summer?

  • This is a period of transition and excitement.
  • You may see the onset of separation anxiety between family members, though no one will readily admit it. This often manifests itself in sibling relationships— you may see some new and unusual sibling conflicts.
  • Remember your future college student is likely dealing with fears and anxieties about this transition, but don’t expect her or him to acknowledge it.

I always suggest that parents/families and their future college students have some “summer conversations” about the upcoming first year of college. Here are some proposed topics to cover:

Money, Money, Money

  • Talk about the actual, overall cost of the student’s education, financial aid, loans, etc. Also try discussing your student’s personal finances — budgeting and paying for books, gas, cell phone, auto maintenance, etc. Sharing your own strategies or thoughts can help him or her recognize all these miscellaneous expenses.


  • When will your student’s first visit home occur? Perhaps you should sit down and down and review the college’s academic calendar together to see what might work. Should the number of visits home be limited as she or he acclimates to college life? Remember, the road goes both ways! Will you be attending Family Weekend, October 10–12? “Yes” is a good answer!

Freedom and Independence

  • With college comes freedom and independence. How will your student make this adjustment while also staying focused on academics, navigating the college social scene, and getting involved on campus outside of academic endeavors?


  • The ways you communicate will change once your student is at Goucher. What type of communication works best for your family — texts, email, calls, Skype, etc.? And how much is too much communication? (Some college administrators refer to cell phones as the “digital umbilical cord!”)

I hope this information is useful to you as you prepare for this exciting transition. Of course, even with the best preparations, your student will face obstacles during his or her first year of college. I see those bumps in the road as significant opportunities for student learning and growth. At such times, I encourage parents and family members to serve as advisers and coaches to their students. My experience has taught me that, in the college environment, the best solutions come about when the student is the primary problem solver. By empowering your student to work through the challenges she or he may experience while at Goucher, you greatly increase his or her independence and capacity to succeed.

As the college’s chief student affairs officer, I provide leadership for many offices and departments, which exist to support students, and enrich their college experiences.  Our assistant vice president for student life, Emily Perl, serves as our primary liaison to parents, and you can reach her at 410-337-6150 or  We look forward to seeing the fantastic things your student will do, and my team and I are here to help him or her achieve it!

See you in August!

Bryan F. Coker, Ph.D. (Dean Coker)

Fall 2013: Letter from the Dean of Students

Dear Goucher Family Members:

BryanCoker0913“Wow!” is the word that comes to mind as I reflect on the events of the past few weeks. There is a new energy across campus, with the Class of 2017 now in our midst and the classes of 2014, 2015, and 2016 rejoining us. The opening of this new academic year has provided me with a true sense of the spirit and uniqueness that permeates this institution, and I am more excited than ever to be a part of all that is happening here.

This newsletter will provide you with a small glimpse of the exciting things occurring on campus. You’ll read a profile of Andrew Wu, who I am thrilled to have on board as the assistant dean of students. He brings a new perspective and skill set to the Division of Student Life.

You will also find information about the new Academic Center at Julia Rogers. Our students and faculty have waited for—and so deserve— this new Academic Center, and it has been amazing to see their faces recently as they have gotten the first glimpses of the amazing final product. I hope you can join us for the ribbon-cutting ceremony during Family Weekend and see this wonderful new space for yourselves.

As I begin my first full academic year as Goucher’s vice president and dean of students, I am looking forward to collaboration and action for many ideas and plans in the campus community. Our division will be evaluating ourselves from all angles this year and asking if we are operating in forward-thinking, innovative, and strategic ways to provide students with the most enriching experiences possible. Under the leadership of Assistant Vice President for Student Life Emily Perl, we will also be examining our efforts toward multiculturalism, diversity, and inclusion to ensure our approach is intentional, formalized, and sustainable.

And of course, this year we will also be celebrating President Sandy Ungar, who has announced he is stepping down as the college’s president after 13 impressive years. I have never before seen, or had the privilege of working with, a more student-oriented college president, so I will personally miss Sandy’s leadership. However, I believe Goucher is in a perfect and enviable position to recruit and identify an outstanding new leader who will take the college to even greater heights. Without a doubt, this will be a great year for Goucher.

Please remind your students of the resources offered to promote and facilitate their success. From our amazing chaplain, to our compassionate health care providers, to our talented learning specialists, our collective goal is always student success.

See you at Family Weekend!




Bryan F. Coker, Ph.D.

Vice President and Dean of Students | 410-337-6150

Fall 2013: Upcoming Events

Throughout the year Goucher presents a number of distinguished guest artists and lecturers. This fall is no exception, as a variety of events for our community and the public fill up the schedule. Listed below is a sampling of some noteworthy events on campus this fall:

Frank Bruni, the New York Times op-ed writer and the Fall 2013 Meyerhoff speaker, will discuss recent changes in America regarding gay marriage and gay rights in general. This presentation will be held on September 30 at 8 p.m. in Kraushaar Auditorium. Tickets are $10 general admission, and free for Goucher students, faculty, staff, and alumnae/i.

Join the campus community for the ribbon cutting ceremony and official opening of the new Academic Center at Julia Rogers on October 5 at 10:15 a.m. Featuring an international commons, cutting-edge research labs and classrooms, and more, the building will be open to the public for tours and classroom demonstrations as part of Goucher’s Family Weekend, October 4-6.

As part of Goucher’s Hispanic Heritage Month celebration, Inca Sun will perform the traditional music of their Peruvian homeland on Thursday, October 10, at 7 p.m. in the Hyman Forum of the Athenaeum. Inca Son has performed worldwide at concert halls, schools, museums, folk and world music festivals, and at the 1996 summer and 2002 Olympic Games. The concert also includes a company of national Peruvian folk-dance champions.

Swiss-born American pianist Gilles Vonsattel, the 2013 Janet and Avery Fisher music resident, will perform a recital program “Revolution!” which will include music by Camille Saint-Saens, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Liszt, Heinz Holliger, Iannis Xenakis, and Frederic Rzewski on October 16 at 8 p.m. in Merrick Lecture Hall. This event is free and open to the public.

Goucher students will perform ballet and modern works by guest artists Emery LeCrone and Gina Patterson, as well as repertory by Andrea Miller of Gallim Dance, on November 22 at 7:30 p.m., and November 23, at 2 and 7:30 p.m. in Kraushaar Auditorium.  The Goucher Repertory Dance Ensemble Concert will also feature work by Goucher dance faculty Trebien Pollard and Rick Southerland. Tickets are $15 general admission; $5 students, senior citizens, and Goucher OneCard holders.

For more events, visit the calendar. For tickets, go to or call 410-337-6333.

Fall 2013: Summer Science Research Program

Public perception of liberal arts might not always lean toward strength in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), but a liberal arts curriculum encompasses ALL disciplines. The Summer Science Research program at Goucher is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to educating students in biology, chemistry, mathematics and computer science, physics, and psychology.

For the 2013 Summer Science Research Program, 23 students worked side by side with 15 faculty members. Take a look at what some of these outstanding students were up to this summer:

Fall 2013: Family Weekend Preview

Curious about what life is like on campus for your student? During Family Weekend—held this year Friday, October 4, to Sunday, October 6—parents get a chance to check out our residence halls, classrooms, and facilities, even eat in our dining halls. Families also will speak with administrators and professors, learning from the experts what you can expect from your student’s college experience.

Activities throughout the weekend include live music, movies, and talent shows; a quirky tour of campus led by Theatre Chair Michael Curry; and a walk in the woods to identify foliage and soak in nature.

A shuttle will be available on Saturday night to take families off campus and around Towson to enjoy dinner out, explore local shops, or just wander around our corner of the Baltimore area. On Saturday there will be Sibling Night at the Gopher Hole, the student-run coffee shop and music venue on campus, while parents can relax at a nearby hotel at the Goucher College group rate.

For a details and updates about the weekend’s schedule, click here.

Family Weekend is co-sponsored by the Office of Student Engagement and Development and Alumnae/I Affairs Division.

New Academic Center at Julia Rogers

A highlight of Family Weekend will be the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Academic Center at Julia Rogers. After a $25 million renovation of its former library, Goucher is ready to unveil the new state-of-the-art academic center. Featuring an international commons, cutting-edge research labs and classrooms, and more, the Academic Center at Julia Rogers will be open to the public for tours and classroom demonstrations. The ribbon cutting and official opening will be held Saturday, October 5, at 10:15 a.m.

Fall 2013: Athletics this Fall

MSOC_parkerbay315At Goucher, student athletes put both their heads and hearts into the game. This fall, the volleyball, soccer, field hockey, cross country, swimming, tennis, and equestrian teams will battle it out on fields, courts, and pools, at home and away. Take a look at some upcoming home-game highlights:

 Day/Time  Team  Event  Why does it stand out?
 9/27 @ 7 p.m. Men’s Soccer vs. the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy In this first-ever conference home game, the Gopher
9/27-28, 4 and 8 p.m. on Friday, 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturday Women’s Volleyball The Goucher Invitational The tournament includes matches against Frostburg State University, Hollins University, Lebanon Valley College, and Keene State College.
 10/5 @ 1 p.m. Women’s Soccer vs. The University of Scranton See how Scranton, the team picked in a pre-season coaches’ poll to win the Landmark Conference, fares against the Gophers.

10/12, men’s race at 10:30 a.m., women’s race at 11:15 a.m. Cross Country The Goucher Cross Country Classic Watch the men’s and women’s cross country teams outrun the competition on their home turf.



For more information on the various athletics events on and off campus, visit




Fall 2013: New Assistant Dean of Students: Andrew Wu

By Bryan Coker


As the vice president/dean of students and as a member of the Goucher community, I am so pleased to welcome Andrew Wu, Goucher’s new assistant dean of students, who assumed his duties August 1. He was selected following a comprehensive national search, which generated a pool of more than 100 highly qualified candidates.

Andrew brings to my team expertise in enhancing the student experience and a deep commitment to the liberal arts. He comes from Bennington College in Vermont, where he served as the assistant director of student life for two years. In that role, he improved the college’s judicial affairs process, founded the Bennington Athletic Department, and became involved in a variety of groups focusing on student behavior and wellness.

A native Marylander, Andrew started looking at higher education jobs that would allow him to return to the area. “Goucher was by far my first choice,” he said, noting that the college’s liberal arts culture and student population align well with his previous experiences. And, as a traveler himself— with Sweden, Denmark, China, Taiwan, and Egypt under his belt—Andrew was attracted to the school’s study abroad requirement. “I value thinking of yourself as a global citizen, and obviously Goucher shares that value,” he said.

Andrew became interested in working with college students during his first job as an assistant soccer coach at McDaniel College. “I quickly found that my role as a mentor and teacher was far more rewarding than winning games,” he said.

He soon transitioned to non-athletic work at McDaniel after receiving a grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools. He helped establish a campus organization that focused on reducing students’ high-risk drinking behavior.

At Goucher, Andrew will oversee student conduct, while also being involved in other aspects of student life. “I want to get to know students in a personal, positive way,” he said.

In Andrew’s last position, the dean left in the middle of the year, and he took the reins on institutional policies, including judicial affairs. He thinks students’ activities outside of the classroom aren’t just a complement to academics; they are central to their development as learners. Andrew wants students to have a safe and informed experience.

“I feel it’s really important for students to understand the policies,” he said. “Outreach, consistency, and transparency are important. It’s beneficial for the student and us on the student conduct end.”

I believe Andrew has shown a deep understanding of the small, private liberal arts environment. He knows our work with students must strike a delicate balance between advocacy and accountability if we hope to truly affect student growth and development. Andrew’s career has crossed a unique bridge between collegiate athletics and student affairs, and this diverse experience base will be valuable as he works with students facing a variety of issues. He will be a terrific asset to my office and to Goucher as a whole.

Andrew graduated with departmental honors and a bachelor of arts from McDaniel College, a master of science from McDaniel College in sports administration, and a master of business administration from Mount St. Mary’s University School of Business.

Have any questions or comments for Andrew? You can contact him at (410) 337-6151 or

Spring 2013: Letter from the Dean of Students

Dear Goucher parents and family members:

Welcome to the first edition of the Digital Dean, our new online letter to Goucher parents and family members! Through this newsletter, we hope to keep you in the loop with what’s happening on — and sometimes off — campus. While some of you may recall previously receiving newsletters through the mail, we will now be using this online medium as an additional effort in Goucher’s commitment to sustainable practices. Given that our students interact in this digital world, it only seems fitting for us to do so as well.

I arrived as “the new guy” on campus in February, beginning my tenure as Goucher’s vice president and dean of students. (Yes, you may have heard about me — I’m the guy who relocated from Florida to Maryland during the winter.) Over the past few months, I have been deeply impressed and inspired by Goucher’s students and encouraged by their desire to make a difference in the world. I am thrilled and honored to have the opportunity to work with so many amazing young women and men every day and to play a significant role in their learning and development.

Both my wife and I are proud graduates of a small liberal arts college, much like Goucher, and are passionate advocates of the liberal arts experience. It was that very passion that ultimately led me to this opportunity at Goucher. While I am still relatively new on campus, please rest assured that your loved ones will be in qualified hands come this fall — I have 16 years of previous experience working in college student affairs, with the 10 most recent years as a dean of students. I am assisted and supported here at Goucher by an incredible staff of immensely qualified professionals.

I am exceptionally grateful for the opportunity to serve Goucher’s students as their dean, and in that role, I thoroughly enjoy working with parents and family members as well. I am always available to talk with you about the joys, concerns, and issues on campus. I am not just a vice president and dean, but also the father of three children. Although my children are still young, know that my role and perspective as a father undoubtedly influences my work with your students, every minute of every day.

Of course, we will encounter those times when your students face obstacles during their college years. I see those occasional “bumps in the road” as significant opportunities for student learning and growth. Thus, at such times, I encourage parents and family members to serve as advisers and coaches to their students. My experience has taught me that, in the college environment, the best solutions come about when the student is the primary problem solver. By empowering your students to work through the challenges they may experience while at Goucher, you greatly increase their independence and capacity to succeed.

During the summer, please know we will be working hard at Goucher to plan and prepare for a fantastic new academic year. Please encourage your students to drop by and get to know me this coming fall, and I hope to meet you as well the next time you visit our beautiful campus. Have a great summer, and I look forward to working collaboratively with you as partners in your students’ success.

Take care,


Bryan F. Coker, Ph.D.
Vice President & Dean of Students

Spring 2013: Learning to Listen

Goucher Peer Listening Program

Modified_peerlisteningwhitebackgroundWhen campus ambassador Annie Cutchen ’14 shows Goucher to prospective students and families, she touts the usual resources such as the college’s location and academic program, but she also mentions the “listeners.” A volunteer with the Peer Listening Program on campus, Cutchen said she wants people to know of the availability of this special service.

Goucher’s Peer Listening Program is a network of students who have been trained extensively in active listening and crisis management to provide support for undergraduates  — things that come in handy for a homesick first-year student or stressed-out senior.

Cutchen said she finds the program to be great for students who want to talk to someone, but who may be intimidated by a faculty member or friends. “We fill that gap, and we’re a bridge between those two things … . We’re able to be a peer while at the same time recommending resources for them to get more support if they want it,” she said.

modified_peerlistening2Student Health and Wellness Coordinator Roshelle Kades ’11 and some friends started the Peer Listening Program as students in 2010 for an independent study. She said other colleges have similar services, but Goucher’s is unique in its emphasis on listening. “We’re not training students to be counselors; we’re training students to be good, active listeners,” she said.

Kades said 10 of the original 14 students are still involved in the volunteer crew that has grown to 20. Peer listeners take different shifts on weeknights and weekends. When listeners get a call, they meet the student in the “safe space,” a room on campus. Calls range from students’ problems with romantic relationships, friends they are worried about, academic concerns, homesickness, substance abuse issues, loneliness and difficulty adjusting to Goucher, health problems, and more.

Cutchen is in her third semester of volunteering with the program. Though listening is a relatively simple activity, the commitment and training for the program are anything but. Peer listeners go through days of preparation, and they have to be ready to handle anything when they are on call. But Cutchen, a psychology major, finds the program to be very personally rewarding. “Being able to listen is a necessary skill if you’re going into psychology or working with people,” she said. “It is challenging and makes me more multi-dimensional.”

Cutchen said she didn’t have expectations when she went into the program, but she has been surprised at the variety of issues she’s spoken about with people. And she said the program is becoming more well-known and used. The call volume tends to be cyclical, with more being made in the beginning of the year, as students adjust, or during finals.

During the school year, peer listeners are available to speak with students seven days a week from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. at 443- 632-7799.

Spring 2013: Spring Break 7.8 Miles Away:

Goucher Students Participate in an Alternative Spring Break in Baltimore

ITLSpringBreakOn Wednesday, March 20, with the sun streaming through the roof of an empty West Baltimore rowhouse ravaged by a fire and age, Amanda Griffith ’13 methodically stacked mortar and brick. “It will feel good to finish it,” she said, looking up an unfinished wall. “But we need a taller ladder.”

Griffith was one of 13 students volunteering with Sandtown Habitat for Humanity as part of the Goucher Builds alternative spring break, a collaboration between Goucher Hillel and Goucher’s offices of Religious and Spiritual Life, Community-Based Learning, and Multicultural Student Services.

Goucher students have been participating in alternative spring breaks for years, often traveling to other countries and states for service. But Yona Gorelick, a trip leader with Goucher Hillel, said it eventually became clear to organizers that they didn’t have to rely on the draw of an “exotic” destination — students were interested in serving local need. “I’m pretty thrilled about it,” Gorelick said. “The students are engaging so thoughtfully and deeply; it’s really quite impressive.”

Students have found great value in being immersed in the city. “Even living so close to Baltimore I didn’t know much about it,” Allison Susser ’14 said. “And these issues we’re confronting, they’re so important.”

Griffith said at the beginning of the trip the group discussed the differences between social justice, community service, and service learning and how they, as a group, wanted to relate these issues to what they were doing. “It’s more about equality in general,” she said. “Social justice is more about a change in the system so everybody can have an equal say.”

Lindsay Johnson ’05, a trip leader from community-based learning, said the loose theme grounding the trip was homelessness/housing, and subsequent layers of issues evolved, from environmental to civil rights. Students worked on Sandtown Habitat for Humanity homes most days, but they also visited a transitional home for people leaving prison and a woman’s shelter, and they did various city tours and made connections with local nonprofits. There was so much to cover that some activities had to be pushed back as a follow-up to spring break.

Gorelick said another plus was running into Goucher alumnae/i as the group engaged with different organizations through the city. “It’s great making these connections,” she said.sbtwitter

Caroline Daniels ’16 said she was introduced to organizations and forged relationships that may be useful if she wants to volunteer in the future. And Susser, a psychology major, found that interaction with recently incarcerated individuals piqued her curiosity in how to help on a professional level. “I’ve been thinking about this line of work for a while, “she said.

Lionel Tchechuent Pelap ’16, a native of Cameroon who has been in Maryland three years, said he thought the trip was a good way to learn about Baltimore, to practice speaking English, and even to experience new food. He wasn’t disappointed. “I’ve learned a lot,” he said, coating white paint on a bedroom wall at one of the volunteer sites.

The trip was largely financed through the organization Repair the World in partnership with Hillel, though some spring breakers donated a small fee to help cover costs.