Soyica Colbert Shares Advice, Plans and Fun Facts in Her Introductory Interview as Interim Dean
We sat down for a welcome interview with Soyica Colbert who has started her term as interim dean of the College this spring. In our conversation, she shared her words of wisdom, plans for the future and fun facts to kick off her tenure.
What project are you most looking forward to working on as dean?
I look forward to continuing to help the College express its deep liberal arts mission grounded in the search for truth and its social justice mission rooted in the Jesuit tradition. I am most looking forward to continuing to expand research opportunities for undergraduates and emphasizing how that research reflects the central tenets of the College through the intersection of teaching, independent study and mentorship. Research is a central part of how we search for the truth, which is at the core of everything we do here whether it be in the sciences, arts, social sciences or humanities. Allowing students to be a part of this prepares students for independent thought once they leave the university. This is crucial, as many of the jobs our students will hold in their lives do not yet exist, so many of the questions we will seek answers for in the future have not yet been asked. There are so many areas of our world that will be served by our education. My goal is to strengthen that mission.
How do you balance your many roles as a professor, academic and dean?
One of the things that I learned early on in my career is the importance of teams. I am very grateful that I entered this position with both an excellent team in the Dean’s Office and of faculty partners. I work well in collectives and one of ways I am able to create balance is to pull from united strength. Mentors and the people who came before are essential in helping me to navigate the path ahead. I will draw from their shared wisdom. I also have to remember that I am here to make Georgetown a more expansive place. Keeping this in mind helps me to stay on the right path when making decisions.
What do you see as this position’s greatest challenge?
I think the greatest challenge right now is leading in the midst of a crisis. One of the things that we know is that when you’re in a crisis you have to triage and attend to the most pressing issue in the moment. And for us that’s everyone’s safety, health and making sure that our education criteria are being met. That being said, there needs to be time to be carved out for our vision for the future. The pandemic has created a spotlight on the many ways that our culture must adapt and improve so that our society is more accessible and equitable for all. My challenge is managing day to emergencies while also setting aside time to plan for the future of our school to ensure that we are implementing the changes that must be born out of what we have learned from this time.
What is your favorite thing about Georgetown?
The people. I was drawn back to Georgetown because of the relationships that I formed here with friends and mentors, faculty colleagues and students. I met my husband here. I experience care for the whole person most profoundly in the Georgetown community.
What do you think makes Georgetown a unique place?
Georgetown’s the best! It combines a world class education with a commitment to social justice that is all unfolding in the nation’s capital. There are other universities grounded in Jesuit values, and there are other prestigious schools even in Washington, but the combination of those two things and its location distinguishes Georgetown from similar institutions. This again provides opportunities and responsibilities for our students, faculty and staff.
What advice do you have for our students?
I would advise Georgetown College students that they are in a unique educational environment where they have access to a robust liberal arts education that coincides with the mission of the university to be people for others. Given our historical moment, we understand more deeply how connected and interdependent we are. And our liberal arts education allows us to wed different fields of knowledge. Our mission is to apply that knowledge towards the common good. I encourage our students to explore areas that feed them, bring them joy and make them want to get out of bed in the morning. I also want them to understand that the work they do is towards being people for others and that is a great opportunity and responsibility.
What are three fun facts about yourself?
Before the pandemic, I was an avid theatre goer — my favorite playwright is Lorraine Hansberry, who I am writing a book about that will be released this spring. I graduated from Georgetown with one major – it is possible to do one thing and go on and to be successful! I also feel a strong relation to my zodiac sign of capricorn.
-by Shelby Roller (G’19)