On Aug. 19, Dr. Celestino Limas became Kenyon’s new vice president for student affairs. In an email sent to the community on Aug. 17, President Sean Decatur welcomed Limas to the College, announcing that he would take over the position from Samantha Hughes, who served as interim vice president following Meredith Harper Bonham’s ’92 departure in May.
“I am delighted to have Celestino as a partner at such a crucial time,” Decatur wrote in the email. “Throughout his 20-plus-year career, Celestino has demonstrated a deep commitment to engaging students meaningfully and openly.”
Prior to working at Kenyon, Limas served as vice president for student life, diversity and inclusion at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania. He has held leadership and student affairs positions at various small liberal arts colleges across the country.
Last year, a committee led by Associate Provost and Professor of Chemistry Sheryl Hemkin began the search for a new candidate. The search committee also included four students, four faculty members and multiple staff members.
Limas said that he was drawn to the passion shown by Kenyon students and the school’s emphasis on collaboration between students, faculty, staff and the administration.
“I was originally attracted to Kenyon because of the fact that there is such a high level of student engagement built into the DNA of this place,” Limas said. “It really looked like, as an outsider, that every part of campus — administration, faculty, educators — everyone wants to continue to grow that.”
According to Decatur’s email, Limas is committed to supporting the College’s Office of Student Affairs, while fostering an environment that integrates all aspects of non-academic student life. He hopes to implement policies that will improve residential life, safety, health and wellness, and other vital aspects of Kenyon student life.
Yet, when asked how he intended to carry out his goals, Limas offered no specifics. “I have zero plans. I have some ideas, and I think there’s a clear difference between those two things,” he said.
Limas added that he intends to work with students and faculty on ideas to create changes that will improve Kenyon student life. He also explained that his philosophy relies on a sense of openness, honesty and transparency, which he has exemplified by handing out his business card containing his phone number to students on Middle Path.
However, Limas acknowledged that there will be challenges down the road, especially when he must make changes to College policy that may contradict students’ desires. He also said he realizes the importance and validity of student criticism to necessary policy changes, and said it will present him with opportunities to revise his approach and move forward.
Yet, while Limas stressed the importance of making necessary changes, he said he was focused on making unnecessary ones, or ones that are “value enhancements.” These are changes to existing policies that work well, but could be improved.
“If someone like me believes, well, that [policy] could actually be better, I am actually at the position where I have to demonstrate to you [students] as partners, here’s how this change is going to be value added for your experience,” he continued.
Limas said he hopes to pitch his ideas to faculty and students in an effort to meet the demands of the administration with input from the Kenyon community as a whole when instituting new College policies. He believes this integrated approach is crucial to implementing positive change.
Overall, Limas said that he has so far enjoyed his short time at Kenyon. “I mean, bottom line, I really like it here,” he said. Limas is looking forward to what his tenure at the College will bring and how he will improve student life.