By Kate Helm
As assistant dean for student affairs in George Mason’s College of Health and Human Services, Susan Swett ’72 strives to recreate aspects of the small-college experience that was so important to her at Lafayette.
“Although the small liberal arts experience cannot be replicated at a large university,” she says, “I remember how important individual relationships were to me as I interact with students here. I spend an extra minute to ask students how their studies are going, refer them to colleagues who can help, and follow up with those who are struggling. These small one-on-one experiences make a difference to a student regardless of the size of the institution.”
Swett’s team oversees applications to the university’s bachelor of nursing program as well as graduate programs in nursing, social work, public health, health administration and policy, rehabilitation science, and nutrition. Her staff also manages student orientation and academic advising.
Fostering a spirit of collaboration is important to Swett, who works closely with George Mason faculty and administrators. Her work frequently connects her with Nancy Freeborne-Brinton ’83 and Ali Berlin Weinstein ’99, faculty members in the College of Health and Human Services who work on the same floor as Swett.
Those collaborative efforts earned Swett the university’s Outstanding Supervisor of the Year award in 2006.
Aside from a four-year detour into corporate recruiting, Swett has been involved in higher education administration since graduating with a degree in English and earning a master’s in counseling from Lehigh University.
Richard Haines ’60, former director of admissions, recruited Swett as “the woman at Lafayette” for presentations to prospective students and parents. Haines liked her work so much that he offered her a one-year admissions counselor position.
She credits that first job, as well as her experience as a resident adviser at Lafayette, with shaping her career in academia.
Swett counts Herman Kissiah, dean of students emeritus, as a role model both on and off campus. She got to know her professors and their families on a personal level. For example, she recalls attending seminars at the home of James Lusardi ’55, now deceased professor of English, and meeting his wife, Marcia, who joined the discussions.
“Lafayette was my home away from home,” says Swett. “I felt as if I had many faculty and administrators who were interested in me and my development as a young adult.”
She is married to J. Bradford Hunter ’70, whom she met in New York City through an alumni chapter event at a Lafayette-Columbia football game.