With the start of the spring semester in full swing, the Honors Program said goodbye to its previous director Anna Page, who retired in the fall. With a glowing recommendation from Page, the Honors Program selected its new director, Anne Dotter. As Dotter settles into her new position at the college, she shares her excitement for the new year.
“[The community here] is wonderful, really, it’s amazing, and I credit the students for it,” Dotter said. “I’m sure my predecessor, did all sorts of great things as well, but the students are amazing. It’s been so amazing to start here and be welcomed as warmly as I was. It’s really been quite tremendous.”
Born and raised in Strasbourg, France, Dotter always found herself in leadership roles and positions that required her to step up and take initiative. As a teenager, Dotter became involved with one of the many overnight summer camps that are offered to children and teens during breaks throughout the year. This sparked her passion for helping students and education.
“In one way or another, I think I’ve always been [interested] in education,” Dotter said. “I just never thought that it’s what I would do right with my career, now all of my disparate and diverse experiences sort of merge making it perfect for honors.”
Over time, Dotter worked her way up from a regular counselor to camp leader. This allowed her to create her own camps; specifically, a two-week camp that took place in the French Alps. The students ranged between the ages of eight and 12 and the camp consisted of all sorts of mountain activities. From hiking and mountain-biking to white-water rafting, there was no shortage of things to do. With a natural gift for assisting students, her path in life became clear.
Dotter attended Marc Bloch University, majoring in English with a special emphasis in American culture and history. She began a doctorate program to get her Ph.D. in French, which led her to the United States. Starting in Michigan, she taught French at a college level, however she quickly discovered that teaching French was not necessarily for her.
“I moved to Kansas in the summer of 2000, and I was recruited into the Ph.D. program [at KU],” Dotter said. “I ended up finishing a Ph.D. [in English] from KU and sort of let go of my French Ph.D. and never finished that one.”
Through the University of Kansas, Dotter was able to continue researching her thesis in humanities that she had started while in France. Within her first year she met the man she would later marry and have two children with. While she has successfully found a career path that allows her to use all of her skills and experiences that wasn’t always the case.
“Research in the humanities, which is my discipline, is pretty poorly funded across the world,” Dotter said. “It’s not where the priorities lie right now, and probably rightly so. Regardless, I went where the money took me. I got a two-year fellowship [from KU] and within the first year I met the person who’s now the father of my two children and my husband. So here we are, I came for money and stayed for love.”
During her time at KU, Dotter encountered many students who had successfully completed the Honors Program at the college. Through those students she was able to meet the former director who then recommended her for the advising position. Now with the spring semester underway, Dotter has begun planning what she wants to see from the Honors Program.
“I am very curious to meet with a wide array of people, and I have made a concerted effort to visit with as many honors students as I possibly could,” Dotter said. I have not reached out to students who are not in honors, and that might be a group of people I want to visit with at one point, but right now my energy is focused on meeting with faculty.”
There is an overwhelming desire from students and faculty that want the Honors Program to have more meaning. This outcry has led Dotter to start research on how she can add more of an identity to the program.
Additionally, Dotter wants to acknowledge the issue of diversity and equity within the program.
“My degree from KU is an American Studies, so I’m thinking constantly about social justice and other things like that,” Dotter said. “Seeing the service-learning office take a more importance place in the Honors requirements is something that I’m very interested in investigating.”
With around 100 students currently enrolled in the program now, Dotter hopes to expand that number throughout her first semester. Students in the Honors Program are held to a higher standard and are expected to meet certain requirements to stay in the program.
“What I see is making the honors program the place where students serve, and first and foremost,” Dotter said. “They receive all sorts of professional developments and challenges and all sorts of other things, but also, I think they, they are kind and caring and mindful. That’s very much what I’m looking for this this program.”
Story by: Alieu Jagne