Residential College Adviser Justin Ramos ’19 said that Butler College’s Director of Student Life Deshawn Cook doesn’t feel like his boss because of Cook’s “sunny demeanor and constant approachability.”
Cook’s final day as Butler’s DSL is Friday, Nov. 9. His next role is Assistant Dean for Student Life at Barnard College, effective Nov. 12. The official announcement came in an email sent out to Butler residents on Oct. 26.
Cook has had extensive prior experience concerning human rights and student engagement. At Ramapo College in Mahwah, New Jersey, he was Resident Assistant in the Office of Residence Life, and at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey, he was the Assistant Director of Residence Life and Deputy Title IX Coordinator.
At the University, Cook worked closely with student groups and support services, helping underrepresented students, students with marginalized identities, and first-generation college students.
As a leader of the residential college adviser team at Butler, Cook brought restorative justice principles to his work in student discipline and led fellow administrators in their work on diversity and inclusion. He also served on the steering committee for the Department of Human Resources’ LGBTQIA Resource Group.
In an interview with The Daily Princetonian, Professor J. Nicole Shelton, Head of Butler College, stressed Cook’s contributions in creating a vibrant living and learning community at Butler. Shelton particularly admired Cook’s compassion.
“[Cook] responds in a way that allows people to feel heard and respected,” said Shelton. “He handles all situations with competence, grace, and diplomacy [and] uses all situations as an opportunity for students to learn and become better people.”
In an interview with the ‘Prince,’ Cook emphasized the importance of creating a judgement-free atmosphere for students and elaborated on the value of relationships he formed with team members and campus partners.
Cook explained that he has made some great friendships at the University and that he will miss the relationships he has developed.
Nonetheless, he looks forward to working with a different student population at Barnard.
“I’m really excited to work at a women’s college with amazing ideals, and to engage in social justice education in a full-time capacity,” said Cook. “Barnard reminds me of the institutions I’ve worked at previously and feels like a homecoming for me.”
Cook credited his own undergraduate experience at Ramapo College as being a key motivator in his work. He noted that there were several administrators and student leaders who made his college experience memorable.
“My goal in this field is to pay homage to those who helped me get here, by continuing the work.”
He explained that he hopes to make a difference in someone’s life.
“I always intend to be seen as a resource to students,” said Cook. “A person can’t be everything to everyone, but what’s most important is the ability to get students connected to the resources they need.”
He encouraged students to ask for help and to take advantage of their resources.
Allen Kong ’21, a Butler College Sophomore Leader, remembered how Cook had a “big presence,” but always distinguished himself through his calm, gentle personality.
Kong explained that Cook always asked how he was doing and Kong’s positive relationship with Cook encouraged him to reach out to other staff members and professors.
“I give him a lot of the credit of my confidence and comfort developing my relationships with faculties,” said Kong. “His love for this school will always be missed.”
Ramos noted Cook’s “constant eagerness for a good, old-fashioned dance party.”
Cook also does a great job of making everyone feel like they are equals so that they feel comfortable enough to speak their thoughts, said Ramos.
In an email to the ‘Prince,’ Dean of Butler College David Stirk wrote, “We are all going to greatly miss Cook’s great sense of humor, his amazing work ethic, and his calm and reassuring presence.”
He added that the University’s loss is Barnard College’s gain.
In a send-off party held on Thursday afternoon in the Class of 1942 lounge, Stirk recounted Cook’s contributions and wished him the best in his future at Barnard.
“I have been in conscious denial … when I realized I was in my last meeting with Deshawn,” Stirk said at the party. “Most of all, he’s just been a friend to us all.”
The University is conducting a national search for a new Director of Student Life, due to be completed by the start of the spring semester.
In the meantime, the Butler College Office and the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students will be responsible for any advising and support services that students need until a new director is inaugurated.