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A conversation with new Dean of Students Brooks Moriarty

By
Adam Loyd
August 21, 2019
Exeter Dean of Students Brooks Moriarty

Mention the name of Exeter’s new Dean of Students Brooks Moriarty ’87 to someone on campus and chances are the reply will be, “Great guy, easy to talk to.” 

Moriarty returned to his alma mater in 2008 and has spent the past a decade developing his affable reputation through countless conversations around the Harkness table as an English instructor, on the lacrosse field as a coach and in the common spaces as the dorm head of Bancroft Hall. In that time, he’s also served as the director of studies and, before his most recent appointment, as the dean of academic affairs. 

The connection Moriarty has to Exeter extends to his family life as he and his wife, English Instructor Genny Beckman Moriarty, and their three boys, Conor ’18, Liam ’21 and Emmet ’23, call campus home. In his fleeting free time, you can find Moriarty hiking a local trail, playing various stringed instruments with members of the English department or rooting for his favorite soccer team, Liverpool. 

Moriarty’s standing as an alum, approachable nature and previous roles at the Academy set to serve him well as he begins his two-year appointment as dean of students. We sat down with him to talk about his approach to the position, his goals for the school year and what advice he has for students who are new to the Exeter community. 

Q: Throughout the summer you’ve been communicating with new students in a series of emails designed to make their transition to Exeter smoother, what inspired you to do that?

“Communication is vital, really. These are students who are about to start something brand new in a place that is brand new and, even if they're a day student, in a community that is brand new. There's a lot of excitement about it from what they know, but there are a lot of things that they don't know. So, it's important to give them information, explain when more answers will be available and provide the recognition that, ‘This may be how you're feeling and we're here to help.’”

Q: Has Exeter changed since you were a student here?

“It really felt like a sink or swim world when I was in school. A student might have said "here's what I need" and the school would not have been able to provide it. Exeter is still a place that cultivates student responsibility, self-reliance and independence, which are essential, but now we have more resources and a better network of support.”

Q: With so many different backgrounds and cultures represented on campus, how does Exeter foster a unique environment for education?

“To prepare kids for the future, you have to begin with a diverse student body and we're really fortunate to have that. I think about my own experience as a student here, coming from a small town in Illinois. I arrive on campus at age 14 and suddenly I'm in a very different world. If not for that experience, who knows how that opening to the world would have happened for me?”

Q: What are some of your goals for this upcoming school year?

“The dean of students position is about serving students, providing for students, but given the responsibilities of the job, it’s been a position that’s traditionally been anchored to a desk. I’d like to change that and be out on campus interacting more with students. I want to visit the dorms and just sit down with a group of kids and hear what's on their mind and get to know them. I wonder how long it would take to know the name of every student?

Q: What advice do you have for new students on their first day of school?

“Take a deep breath. You can do this. You belong here. I hope you laugh today. I hope you learn something new. I hope you meet somebody that you think is amazing, and I know somebody's meeting you that thinks you're amazing too.”

Q: In a sentence, what do the following words mean to you: Harkness?

“It’s a radical, democratic pedagogy, and the faculty need to fold our work on inclusion and diversity and equity into our understanding of the possibilities of Harkness.”

Q: Non sibi?

“It’s like our Declaration of Independence, and we need to keep going back to it to make sure we're living up to it.”

Q: Equity?

“It’s essential and I hope we get to the day where we push the conversation to the next thing on the horizon, but for now it’s a work in progress.”

Q: Bancroft?

“Because that was home for so long it was difficult to move to a different part of campus, but my family’s time there is why I know the dorm-based community building is so vital here.”

Q: E/A Games?

“As a player and as a coach, it's the big day and it's a lot of fun to participate and compete on the big day. It's almost as if every other competition doesn't matter.”