In the Students’ Corner

By By Stella Katsipoutis-Varkanis

Brian Samble wears suit and red tie and smilesLast winter, Brian Samble was in his fifth year of serving as assistant dean of student affairs and deputy Title IX coordinator at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., when he noticed a new opening at Lafayette advertised by executive search firm Spelmaan Johnson: dean of students. And while he knew transitioning to a new city and the next phase of his career during a pandemic wasn’t going to be easy, Samble was ready for a challenge. So, he applied—and by April 1, he became a proud member of the Lafayette family.

Since then, the Wilbraham, Mass., native—who earned his B.A. in history from Saint Anselm College, and M.A. and Ph.D. in higher education administration from Boston College and University of Tennessee, respectively—has been coming to work each day determined to address a single question: How can we be better for our scholars? Here, we get to know one of Lafayette’s most prominent advocates for student success.


Like a city manager, Samble works closely with faculty, staff, and parents to ensure scholars can effectively navigate different offices/departments at the College and ensure the right structures are in place to provide a coherent, meaningful, and safe collegiate experience. “Students are impacted by decisions you make. You don’t always have control over everything that happens, but you hear people out and work with them to affect change,” he says. These are a few of Samble’s key responsibilities:

  • Running multiple offices within the Campus Life Division: Residence Life, Student Conduct, Behavioral Intervention, Recreation Services, Religious & Spiritual Life, Advocacy & Prevention Programs, Title IX, and Student Involvement—which encompass first-year orientation, student clubs and organizations, Greek life—all report to Samble. A new student-leader program supervised by Samble, Dean’s Ambassador, will launch this fall to enhance communication with the broader community about campus life.
  • Leading the Dean’s Task Force on Campus Community Development: Consisting of mostly students and some staff members, this committee evaluates requests from student organizations and acts on long-term improvements that elevate the campus life experience—including social activities and diversity and inclusion—for all scholars.
  • Managing emergency response: In the event of a crisis, Samble is among the first to assist students and parents, serving on-call with others from the division. “You have to be able to respond within minutes to any number of critical situations,” he says.
  • Building positive relationships: Samble makes it a point to be a visible presence on campus for scholars—attending organization activities and athletic events, or simply grabbing a cup of coffee—to get to know them.
  • Liaising among students, faculty, and staff: “One of my roles is to invest in those who are working tirelessly behind the scenes for the students, help bring clarity to their goals, and help them intentionally design their strategic plans,” Samble says.


“Having graduated from a liberal arts college, I recognized the value of small class sizes, club involvement, and learning from others from different backgrounds. I wanted to dedicate my career to helping students find a similar sense of community, and recognize learning opportunities inside and outside the classroom.

“While I was at the University of Tennessee—working for the dean’s office and residence life while pursuing my doctorate—I also studied at Aarhus University in Denmark for a month. I researched the design of a world-class university, studied international higher education, and watched how this institution set a course for its strategic vision to become top 50 in the world. And that made me ask: How can I design a world-class program for student affairs?”


“. . . My happiest moments are when I look at students and see how much they grow over four years. When you see a student come in as a first-year, graduate as a senior, go on to pursue a graduate program or the career of their dreams, a lot of different moments and milestones help set them on that course. And if I can be part of any of those milestone moments, that’s intrinsically rewarding.

“The needs of incoming students are growing. Mental health concerns have grown astronomically over the last four years. The cost of education continues to increase. Students often balance work with study commitments, and often while facing personal, financial, or health-related challenges. A solid case management program helps students navigate those challenges and persist until they graduate and make a difference for themselves, their families, and future generations. For every student that gives us their four years and gives us the chance to help them grow, we owe it to them to support them as much as we can.”


“. . . Starting my new role during a pandemic when things were virtual. Anyone in my position envisions showing up to events, shaking hands, joining students for lunch, attending athletic events. I was very excited for fall 2021. With the Lafayette community almost entirely vaccinated, we’ve been able to gather together and feel more connected on our campus. This has been a hard year on everyone, and I’ve learned we’re all in this together. I also learned that technology can be leveraged in ways that can help us work smarter and be even more present with students in the future.”


Here’s how Samble likes to recharge when he takes a break from looking out for others:

Living healthy
“Most days at 6 a.m. you’ll find me at the gym or out for a run. In the evening, I’m usually experimenting with a new healthy recipe for dinner.”

“I’m always eager to learn something new, so I picked up kayaking as a new pastime.”

Listening to music
“I’m a big country music fan. Five years in Tennessee will change your playlist!”

Sipping coffee
“I have a habit of finding local coffee shops on the weekend, bringing my laptop, and doing some reading or writing with a fresh cup of coffee brewing. It helps me find peace.”


“You’ve earned your place here, and you’re valued in our community. Live intentionally and with purpose. Join a club or activity, take on an internship, develop friendships. There’s a bright future ahead. And remember: My door is always open.”