Get to Know John McKnight, the College’s New Dean – The Clerk
John McKnight, who started as the new dean of Haverford College in July, has now been working for more than three months. McKnight is the permanent hire for this position: When Martha Denney stepped down as Dean in 2020 after eleven years at Haverford, Joyce Bylander stepped in as Acting Dean for the 2020-2021 academic year. As Dean of the College, his job description is to “oversee all aspects of student life at Haverford”.
In some ways, Dean McKnight has always been connected to the world of education; both of his parents worked in higher education when he was growing up. However, McKnight was first drawn to education himself when he was an undergraduate student. At the University of Florida, McKnight served as Guidance Officer – a position reserved for about 30 students at a school of tens of thousands. As the guidance manager, McKnight stayed on campus all summer, where he managed large cohorts of students and helped counsel their families. During this time, McKnight discovered that he enjoyed working with students and being a peer mentor.
As a result of these experiences, he pursued both a master’s and a doctorate in leadership and administration studies. Sometimes he was tempted to become an education teacher, but decided to stay in administration because he “wanted to influence the lived experiences of students in a positive way.” After graduation, he held many different positions in education administration, including Dean of Institutional Equity and Inclusion at Connecticut College and similar responsibilities at Lafayette College and the Lehigh University.
As part of his thesis entitled “Brothers in Struggle: A Phenomenological Study of the Development of White Male Students as Allies of Social JusticeHe conducted research on Haverford students. Meanwhile, Haverford made an impression on McKnight. He said: “I could tell it was a highly intellectual community and people were deeply committed to social justice.” McKnight believes that Haverford’s core values have not changed, but the needs and expectations of the community have changed over the years. He hopes to be part of an effort to better help the next generation of students.
As Dean of the College, McKnight manages dozens of people and many different offices that are crucial to the functioning of the school. So, to effectively lead a large organization, McKnight believes he must be a “methodical” worker. He has a list of goals for college that he keeps private, but he was willing to share that his top priority for this semester was to “come in with humility, learn while I work, and see how I do.” integrated. ”
As for its longer-term goals, McKnight wants better tools to assess the effectiveness of the ways in which the administration tries to support students. He says the administration should know if we are achieving the expected results. McKnight also wants to provide more extracurricular resources for students, so Haverford can provide a more holistic educational experience for their students. He believes that students should feel that what they are doing inside and outside the classroom makes sense. McKnight is excited to be working with his colleagues to further develop student confidence and better prepare students for life after college. McKnight discovered that his colleagues share his “deep care for students and … this [care] that is why I am attracted to small colleges.
Outside of Haverford, McKnight describes himself as a ‘family man’. His wife also works in education, as a counselor in the Philadelphia public school system. They have a twelve year old son, a nine year old daughter and a goldendoodle puppy named Justice. When the whole family is together, they enjoy doing “outdoor activities, like hiking, going to concerts and supporting Haverford athletics.”