Q&A with OS Alum Cherish Dean (Class of 2022) and Current LSA Dean’s Fellow. Cherish’s pathway was a part of the Arts & Innovations category along the lines of “Creating a Culture of Storytelling.”


Could you describe your position as a Dean's Fellow for U-M LSA? How did you discover this position? 

Honestly, I fell into this position by luck and circumstance. Yes, I knew I liked the environment of a university and when I interviewed, I felt exceptionally prepared for everything they seemed to want from someone in the position so it felt like a good fit, but it wasn’t on my radar in the slightest until an advisor I kept in touch with (Dr. Henry Dyson) sent me an email asking if I’d heard about it. 

I’d describe the position itself as being like a rotational program that doesn’t rotate. I’m a temporary staff member on a 1 year contract working in the LSA Dean’s Office. I have a desk in the Dean’s suite and report to the Chief of Staff, but beyond that I work with people all across LSA, in the DEI Office, in Facilities & Operations, in Undergrad Ed, etc. The position is like ⅓ committees, ⅓ bigger projects where I’m given a concept or proposal and get to run with it, and ⅓ getting to be a fly on the wall, or administrative +1. 


What is a project or initiative you've been part of as a Dean's Fellow that you are particularly proud of? 

One of my most recent projects was participating in a committee that planned and hosted a Mental Health & Well-being Fair (reported on by the Daily here, where I was actually quoted!). The event was a partnership between LSA@Play, the DEI Office, and the Mental Health & Student Well-Being Advocates, and I helped coordinate two of the stations and photographed the event, day of! 

An ongoing initiative that I’m happy to have a small part in is the LSA Year of Sustainability. To highlight the work of current students, staff, and faculty in the realm of environmentalism, I conducted 10 interviews in the late fall/early winter which I’ve been working through now and turning into these Climate Diaries posts found here. I’m really grateful for the kinds of conversations I've been able to have, and that I have the opportunity to highlight these really thoughtful perspectives.


Which aspects of your Organizational Studies degree have been most valuable in your role?

The frequent collaborative work that you engage in as an OS student on those countless group projects was one useful prototype activity that’s assisted me in this role now. While it’s different to juggle multiple work projects vs. multiple classes each semester, everyone you collaborate with often has a lot on their plate, so being able to maximize your meetings, communicate clearly beyond them, and set clear expectations on how everyone’s contributing is helpful. 

I would also specifically call out OS 435 (Strategic Organizational Change through Managing Human Resources) and OS 445 (Organizational Culture) as providing a mix of pragmatic and theoretical touchstones I can return to in approaching certain projects or reflecting on my experience thus far. In particular, I’m currently sitting on a hiring committee for a new Executive Assistant position within the Dean’s Office and drew upon my experience designing an interview guide and conducting mock interviews for OS 435 in doing similar work for this committee. 


Are there any other specific experiences during your time in OS that have been particularly influential in your career path? 

I think all the time about Organizational Wrongdoing, which I took in Fall 2020 with Dr. Lisa Fein. If we want to champion diversity and sustainability and make positive change within our organizations, we cannot turn a blind eye to the things they do wrong. It is never just a bad apple, but a bad barrel, a bad culture, bad assumptions that become fact to new employees that shape a hostile work environment. Being introduced to the idea of “ethical fading,” and types of rationalization has been a helpful foundation for me. Not to say I’ve been in bad situations, but just that this awareness has given me a good foundation to be mindful with. 


Cherish (R) and fellow OSers at the 2021 WiL Cider Mill Trip


As a member of the LSA DEI Foundations in the Workplace, what role do you think LSA (and Organizational Studies) should play in championing DEI in higher education? 

I think that first and foremost, the Foundations of DEI in the Workplace (FDW) program hopes to communicate the idea that anyone and everyone can have a role in championing DEI and that this is a message that LSA and OS should continue to amplify. In a way, FDW could be considered a microcosm of the role that LSA and OS should also play, which is to say, each of these places should approach it from a position of providing community members with spaces to learn about their identities and biases and how to show up for others through allyship. Then they should encourage them to explore those things later on by hosting safe spaces where people can engage in dialogues over how these concepts show up in their lives. 

Then to approach it more specifically from the OS perspective, I think people with our background should work on the change management/culture angle. Our core classes look at organizations from a strong sociological and psychological perspective and show us that we need to think about the individual people if we want to ensure change that will last on the organizational or institutional level.


What are your future career aspirations?

I'm not sure, and I have about 6 months to figure it out! This position has me considering further work in higher ed more seriously, but I'm still not 100% certain if that's the path I'll pursue. 

In a broader sense, this role has prepared me to be a better colleague and young professional through the teams I've been able to work with and the mentorship I've received from my supervisors. I have a better understanding of my strengths and weaknesses, of how to set boundaries for myself and do the best job I can without burning out by doing more than I need to. Finding more of a balance. Whatever I do next, I know that will help me. 


Finally, do you have advice for OS students aiming for leadership roles in academia?

If it’s alright, I’m not going to stick to just one piece of advice.

Applications [for the LSA Dean Fellowship] open in April, are open to the current and previous graduation year, and you start in September and run through August 31st of the following year. If you are interested in working in academia/higher education in general and don’t mind sticking around Ann Arbor for another year, I highly recommend applying for this position.

In all honesty, I don’t know that I’m going to stay in higher ed administration, but I know that I have a better on-the-ground, hands-on understanding now of all that it takes to keep the College of LSA running and that regardless of what I pursue now, I feel I’ve grown and developed a number of practical and transferable skills that I think will serve me well. 

Beyond promoting my own role, the best advice I ever received was to do prototype activities! Whatever draw you might have to Academia, don't be afraid to reach out to people in those positions and ask for a 30 min conversation about their work and what led them there. If you think you want to work in advising, see if you can take on a mentorship role is some student org you're involved in (or within OS!). If you want to work in DEI, I know the team at LSA has an intern right now, so see if places across campus are hiring! 


Cherish, among other OSers, at the 2021 WiL Picnic

Wondering how you can impact current OSers and future leaders like Cherish on Giving Blueday (Wednesday, March 13th).