A Student  Development Professional in Disguise

By Sue Weitz

Fall 2010 Semester at Sea is such a favorite memory for me because of the strong administrative team and community built on the voyage. This community was largely due to Dr. David Gies, aka Dean David.

David and I had never met or actually even heard of one another prior to our voyage. When he heard he was going to be a co-dean with a student development professional, I think he was ready to resign. He seemed to have a lack of confidence in people holding such positions. To his credit, he reached out to me by email…he sent no message, just a picture of his dog, Chico. “Alright,” I thought. “A dog lover; this man must be OK!”

Following the picture, I heard rumors that he didn’t think this co-dean arrangement would work. Students should be focused on academics, and student affairs, some said, might get in the way of the UVA tradition of learning and scholarship. I remember when I first met David at an orientation  session on the UVA grounds. The first thing he asked me was “do I need to wear or bring a costume to the ship?” Asking about costumes was all it took, and I knew deep down inside of David was a student development guy after all!
I was lucky to meet this amazing man and was really blessed to work with him. Watching him give lectures, work leadership magic with the faculty, and motivate students to learn gave me total confidence Fall 2010 voyage was in great hands. David and I created a team built on mutual respect. We developed a true learning community by unifying the in- and out-of-the-classroom experience. It was a co-curricular success in a living-learning community of which Thomas Jefferson himself would be proud!


David, welcome to your new club: retirement. I know you still have much to contribute to the world, so only consider this a UVA retirement. Know that I look forward to seeing your next adventures. I honestly believe you are a faculty member who educates the whole person, educating the mind and the heart. Academic to your core, you have the chops of a student development professional in there, too. Welcome to that club, as well!

Congratulations on your retirement, Dean David. May your next chapter be filled with many voyages of discovery!

Sue Weitz