Currier retiring after decade as Dean of Students

2 months ago

By the time Bill Currier became dean of students at ASMSA in July 2007, he had served as a student affairs administrator of various levels for almost 25 years at several institutions of higher learning across the country.

Institutions Currier has worked at include Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, The Culinary Institute of America, Western New Mexico University and Penn State University. One thing in common among each of those institutions was the need for a strict disciplinary system — some more so than others. He approached discipline in the same manner when he first started at ASMSA. He soon learned that he would have to change his approach.

During his first year at ASMSA, a female student was required to visit his office because an incident report had been filed after she had to receive stitches for an injury she sustained playing ultimate Frisbee on Charter Field, where the Student Center now stands.

She thought she was in trouble, and Currier initially thought she had been written up, but once they discussed the incident, he said, no further action was needed. That made him take notice of the student, however.

Currier said the student seemed to be an introvert, often sitting at a table by herself. While she may have seemed quiet and introverted, Currier learned his impression of her was not fully informed.

One day in the spring, Currier went to watch a couple of the male students play baseball on the Hot Springs team. While there, he heard there were a couple of female students on the softball team, as well, so he decided to attend one of their games.

The pitcher on the mound that day was the female student who had received stitches. She also batted cleanup for the softball team, but she never talked about her softball accomplishments. She attended a research trip to Colorado for a class. When a local merchant asked Currier to help him find a tutor for his daughter, he decided to see if the female student with the highest grade point average in the school would be interested. It was the same female student.

“I knew at that point I had to step up my game. With that kind of accomplishment and modesty you realize you have to be at your best, too,” Currier said.

He found that ASMSA students, who often call him DC short for Dean Currier, held a different respect for himself as dean and the residential mentors. The students viewed them as adults and not peers. Currier said he probably started out a little too rigid and had to adjust accordingly.

Now 10 years later and as he ends his tenure at ASMSA upon retirement July 1, Currier said that student attitude is still prevalent among the students at the school. His interactions with the students over the last decade taught him new lessons in how to deal with situations.

“I think I trusted students more here than ever trusted before, and I think it’s well founded,” Currier said. “I start out trusting them, and then if something goes wrong, I take a different approach. But 19 times out of 20 I don’t have to do that. They have character.”

Having a supportive faculty and administration also played an important role whatever success he had at ASMSA, Currier said. He was hired by then-director Dr. Janet Hugo and worked closely with her and Melanie Nichols, the dean of academic affairs at the time. He found a group that learned how to work collaboratively and could agree to disagree on matters, he said. That carried through to the current administration of Director Corey Alderdice and current Dean of Academic Affairs Bob Gregory.

“I have been really lucky to have had two directors who never asked me to do anything unethical. That is a great luxury. I have been places where that wasn’t true,” Currier said.

At the 2017 ASMSA Honors Convocation this spring, Currier was recognized for his work with ASMSA by Gregory. During the ceremony, Gregory said Currier served as a guide around campus for him and his son Jackson, a member of the Class of 2017, in summer 2011 before he started as a mathematics instructor.

“He was as kind as he could be,” Gregory said. “It made me know that this was going to be a place I could be, that I could thrive and I could aspire for my son to come to. He has represented throughout as I changed from a math teacher to a dean who had to make some hard decisions and some hard choices. He has turned into a great friend and an ally.”

That description fits in with the work example Currier tries to display — servant leadership. He said he believes that a leader must be a role model and do the work that they expect others to do as well. That’s true whether you’re serving as the chief of discipline or moving mattresses between rooms when needed, he said.

“You have to be willing to do the work if you’re asking other people to do the work. I think when you have people who have integrity it’s very successful because they buy into it and they’re a team rather than a staff,” he said.

When he took the job at ASMSA, he was actively seeking his “last job,” Currier said. He was finishing up four years at the Culinary Institute. His seven years at Western New Mexico University in Silver City, N.M., was previously his longest tenure at one institution. He interviewed for jobs in Pennsylvania and Alaska, but they weren’t the right fit.

Growing up in Chicago and its suburbs until he was done with college, he was done with bigger towns and bigger schools, he said. Hot Springs and ASMSA were interesting because it was a small town and small school, both things he liked. Hot Springs National Park, where he could hike, was also attractive.

He decided now was the time to retire because he wanted to be healthy enough to enjoy retirement, he said. At 63, “I’m not getting any thinner,” Currier said. Once he officially retires July 1, he will be moving back to a familiar place — Silver City, N.M.

He plans to begin biking more, as the New Mexico environment is more inviting and it will be easier on his knees, he said. He still has friends in the community from his previous stint there, and he would like to pursue some graduate history courses in his free time.

In the past several years when someone who had served at ASMSA for a long period of time retired, they would receive a special gift from Currier. When he wasn’t in the Student Center, you could often find Currier in the woodshop crafting speaker cabinets with ebony or his favorites padauk or ash. Retirees would often be gifted a set of crafted speakers from Currier as a going-away gift.

He started building speakers while playing in a band in high school. While working for an electronics company, he had a friend who was a good woodworker who built speaker cabinets. He taught Currier how to build nice cabinets and pair them with the right speakers. It’s a hobby he has enjoyed ever since.

While he won’t be gifting himself a pair of speakers, that doesn’t mean someone won’t receive a set of speakers upon his retirement if he gets all of the work done, Currier said. “There’s a few people I’d like to give some to,” he said.


 

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