Director's Corner Megan McLean, Director of Hillel
I've only been in Lexington for three months, but I already feel at home here. I am so grateful to this incredible community for welcoming me with open arms and open hearts. When I came here for my interview in June, almost everyone I met described Washington and Lee as "a very special place" and I couldn't agree more!
I thought I'd start my first Star article by telling you a little bit about my background and why I moved to Lexington. I have many years of experience working in the Jewish community, at Jewish Family Service of New Mexico and at Congregation Albert, a reform synagogue in Albuquerque. I've managed communications and marketing, taught all ages from pre-school to adults, led youth groups and Birthright trips, directed summer camps, supported isolated Jewish communities in rural areas, provided services to seniors aging at home and collaborated with Jewish community leaders from all over.
I have a B.A. from the University of Colorado in political science, international affairs and French and an M.P.A. (Masters of Public Administration) from the University of New Mexico. I also have certificates in advanced French (from IFALPES-Institut Francais des Alpes), Hebrew language and literature and Middle Eastern Studies (from WUJS-World Union of Jewish Students) and human resources (from the HR Certification Institute). I've thought for about the last five years or so that being a Hillel director would be the absolute perfect job and was thrilled to see this opening at Washington and Lee!
I look forward to applying all of my various studies and work experiences to the programming and events we'll host here at Washington and Lee Hillel. You should have received a welcome letter from me in some form or another. If you haven't, please let me know so that I can add you to our mailing list. As you may already know, this fall we welcomed our largest ever class of Jewish first years to W&L (31!). As our community grows, I want to ensure that Hillel remains a warm, welcoming place where students of all backgrounds can come and feel like they are part of a community. There are so many people who have come together to make Washington and Lee Hillel the very special place that it is and I thank each and everyone one of you for all that you do.
Our year has gotten off to a great start! I was able to attend (along with a few current Hillel participants) many of the events that welcomed students to campus such as the Religious Life Fair, Undergraduate Student Activities Fair, Law School Student Activities Fair and VMI's Rat Sunday (a day for the Virginia Military Institute's first year students to connect with their faith communities). Our Hillel Student Board Officers were also able to connect with new students by bringing them all welcoming gift baskets to their dorm rooms. I'm happy to report that many of the students we met the first week of school have become regulars at Hillel events.
I've also had the great pleasure of meeting many prospective students. Almost every week we'll have a high school student or two come by to check out Hillel. I'll give the student and their family a tour of the building, answer any questions they have about W&L Hillel, and introduce them to any students who are around at the time. We also have an incredible program through the Admissions Department that allows for Jewish high school seniors to come and spend a couple days with our current students, to see if W&L is the right place for them. Twelve students came in October and we expect a good number to come out for the second program in January. I have also been attending College Admissions Fairs along with W&L admissions counselors and have really enjoyed talking to prospective students from all over about what we have to offer them. The Jewish students I meet are always pleasantly surprised to hear about our "small and mighty" Hillel.
It's also been a lot of fun (and incredibly helpful) for me to meet with so many W&L alumni and supporters of Hillel. I love hearing their stories of what the campus and Jewish community were like when they were here and am proud to share with them how their support has helped our community flourish. I can't express how truly grateful I am for our alumni. There wouldn't be a Hillel at W&L without them. When the Board of Trustees and 5 Star Generals were here on campus, I was able to talk with several of them, all of whom had exceptional things to say about W&L Hillel and its growth and development over the last few years. Everyone I talked to was proud to be a Hillel supporter and excited to see how Jewish life continues to thrive here at W&L.
I have already started to build relationships with so many students, faculty, staff and community members here and I'm meeting more and more people every day! I've been collaborating with different departments all across campus and have been pitched quite a few really exciting ideas for new programs. I also have lots of ideas of my own that I hope you all will like. I am thoroughly enjoying working with the students to plan all of these events and look forward to sharing them with all of you. While continuing with the much-loved programs (don't worry - I won't touch the Latke-Hamantashen debate!) I also want to bring a different perspective to W&L and hopefully increase student participation in Hillel by trying some new things.
Please feel free to contact me at any time. I am available by phone, email, or in person at the Hillel house. I welcome any feedback or questions you might have about Washington and Lee Hillel. This is going to be a great year!