Fostering A Sense of Belonging:
Dr. Nahal Kaivan is the College’s New First Year Dean

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Nahal KaivanWhen students arrive for their first year at Sarah Lawrence, their inevitable sense of excitement may come with an ounce of trepidation as well. They come from nearly every state, more than 30 countries, and innumerable cultures and communities. In this brand new environment it only makes sense that new students might ask, Where do I fit in?

To help answer that question, Sarah Lawrence established a position to ease first year transitions and to set new students up for success throughout their college careers. As the College’s inaugural First Year Dean, psychologist Nahal Kaivan, PhD, considers her role to actually be the dean of belonging.

“When students feel a sense of belonging,” she says, “we know that they move from surviving to thriving, feel more accountable and connected to their campus community in the present, and they care about their campus’ future.”

Dr. Kaivan hopes to convey that “help-seeking is a strength we aim to fortify in all students, first-year students especially.” As First Year Dean, her focus will be on guiding accepted students’ transition to Sarah Lawrence and to college life in general, coordinating all the resources and services available to first-years. She will also lead key programs for new students, including Belonging at SLC, a multi-session introduction to student life that launched in 2020, new student orientation, peer mentoring programs, and communications for new students and their families.

Prior to joining Sarah Lawrence, Dr. Kaivan worked at Duke University as an academic dean and co-director of a student retention program that focused on retaining historically and institutionally minoritized students within STEM majors. Before that, she worked as a staff psychologist at Duke and in other roles driven by the premise that optimal mental health and wellness create the necessary conditions for student thriving and success.

Amada Sandoval, Dean of Engagement, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, is excited to have Dr. Kaivan on the team. “Nahal brings psychological expertise, a deep sense of compassion, and a dedication to true inclusivity to her work,” she says. “She is committed to listening and learning from our first year students and to helping them forge holistic connections with the Sarah Lawrence community. We are thrilled to work with Nahal and excited about the opportunities ahead.”


About Sarah Lawrence College

Founded in 1926, Sarah Lawrence is a prestigious, coeducational liberal arts college that consistently ranks among the leading liberal arts colleges in the country. Sarah Lawrence is known for its pioneering approach to education, rich history of impassioned intellectual and civic engagement, and vibrant, successful alumni. In close proximity to the unparalleled offerings of New York City, the historic campus is home to an intellectually curious and diverse community.