Colby is pleased to announce the appointment of Gustavo Burkett, currently senior associate dean of diversity and community involvement at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as the new Dean of the College following a national search.
In this role, Burkett will have broad oversight of the student experience at Colby and will work to fully integrate the College’s academic and campus life programs. He will work in partnership with faculty on the academic experience and with the provost and other senior leaders on campus-wide diversity and residential life initiatives.
“Gustavo impressed us with his deep and genuine commitment to the student experience and his track record of making campuses places where all students can thrive,” said Colby President David A. Greene. “He is an exceptional team builder who knows from firsthand experience the critical and rewarding role the Dean of the College Division plays in furthering the mission of the College. He does this all with a wonderful combination of joy and intelligence. We can’t wait to welcome him to campus this summer.”
He will begin his new role in July.
Burkett, originally from Argentina, came to Maine as a high school exchange student. He returned to complete his undergraduate work at the University of Maine, graduating in 2002. He earned his master’s degree in higher education administration and educational leadership from the University of Maine in 2005 and expects to receive his doctorate in higher education and social justice this year from the University of Massachusetts-Boston.
He has worked in leadership positions at MIT, Boston College, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and the University of Maine.
“I am beyond excited to become part of the Colby family. Walking across campus just a few weeks ago, I saw students laughing and playing outdoors, studying in groups, sitting in the student center, and walking alongside professors,” Gustavo said. “The energy I felt on campus that day, and the fantastic conversations I had with faculty, staff, and students, are significant manifestations of the culture and spirit of Colby College. I look forward to becoming engaged in and being part of this rich and vibrant community.”
Burkett performs a range of responsibilities at MIT, which he joined in a senior leadership capacity in 2017. He provides strategic direction to a broad set of initiatives that advance community involvement programs through the oversight of five multipurpose buildings, more than 500 student organizations, and 50 staff members.
He has administrative responsibility for SPXCE Intercultural Center; LBGTQ+ Women and Gender Services; the Office of Religious, Spiritual, and Ethical Life and the chaplain to the institute; the Student Organizations, Leadership, and Engagement Office; the Campus Activities Complex; and the Hobby Shop, a center for design, innovation, and creation.
He has served as a member of the vice president’s senior leadership team and collaborates with partners throughout MIT to build engagement, support leadership development, strengthen cultural fluency while expanding appreciation for issues of social justice, equity, and inclusion, and advancing a community in which all undergraduate and graduate students thrive personally and intellectually.
Suzy Nelson, vice chancellor and dean of student life at MIT, praised Burkett for enhancing student life during his time at MIT.
“Gus’s abilities really shone during the pandemic, when he managed a vast portfolio of shared campus spaces and worked to address the needs of more than 550 student organizations. He handled many unprecedented, complex, and constantly changing issues with skill and grace,” Nelson said. “While this is difficult news for those of us who have grown to know Gus well and respect him as an exceptional colleague, this is a wonderful opportunity for him, professionally and personally.”
Burkett said he sees similarities between MIT and Colby, particularly because both are highly selective, competitive schools with talented students. “The focus on research, teaching, and learning that we have at MIT will connect me well with what Colby is doing and striving to do,” he said. “I’m looking forward to working in a smaller institution that’s just as rigorous as MIT, but with a different approach. This is a job that will allow me to put my arms around the fabric of the community.”
Adaobi Nebuwa ’24, one of the students on the search committee, described Burkett as a resilient and thoughtful leader who will enrich campus life.
“I was blown away by his personable nature and unique perspective, which I feel will truly enrich the campus community and contribute to the success of Colby,” Nebuwa said. “I resonated with his international background and resiliency to get where he is today. I’m excited to have him join us and look forward to the many ways in which he will contribute to Colby’s continued growth and direction.”
Prior to joining MIT, from 2012 to 2017, Burkett was director of student involvement at Boston College, where he helped build and strengthen student organizations and campus programming. He initiated short-term and long-term strategic plans for student programming and experiential leadership, and he oversaw innovative student leadership programs that promoted the academic, social, and spiritual mission of Boston College.
At UNC-Charlotte, he served as associate director of student activities for programs for two years, from 2010 to 2012. At UMaine, he was director of campus activities and student engagement, beginning in 2007.
Burkett is looking forward to connecting with people across the Colby community. “I’m a trusting person who builds honest and true relationships with people,” he said. “That’s how I work.”
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