Sheilah Shaw Horton, Wellesley’s new dean of students, landed on campus not that long before the class of ’21 did. Still, a longtime professional in student affairs who clearly relishes contact with undergraduates, she jumped right in. During first-year orientation, she served as co-MC of the class’s talent show—and in doing so, got a good window on Wellesley students.
Horton recalls standing backstage in Alumnae Hall with a group of first-years who had volunteered to perform for their entire class, just three days into college. “It takes courage to do that,” she says. Suddenly one of the students yelled, “OK, everybody, pull it in!” and led the group in an affirmation activity, “reminding them all that they are amazing people and will do well in their performance,” she says. “It gave me chills to see this first-year student take the lead to help her peers prepare for the performance.”
Horton says she has been impressed by how supportive students are of one another, in addition to being very bright and engaging. A psychologist by training, she keeps a special eye out for issues of health and wellness. “This inclination to support each other can and should be developed toward self-care and care for the community,” she adds.
Horton comes to Wellesley from Loyola University Maryland, where she served as vice president of student development and dean of students. She also spent 25 years at Boston College in a variety of key positions, including associate vice president and dean of students, from 2008 to 2011. Her master’s degree and Ph.D. are from BC, in counseling psychology.
The new dean oversees the Student Life Division, with a team of approximately 75 people—cultural advisors, residential life staff, religious and spiritual life staff, and many more. She plans an active year of meetings and student events, a “listening tour.”
“My highest priority this year is to get to know the Wellesley community,” Horton says, “to learn about the traditions and student experiences that make it unique. [I want to] assess what is happening and make the connections with what should be happening as it relates to student growth and development. I’ll be looking at our residential experience and thinking about ways to leverage opportunities to promote health and wellness and inclusive excellence.”