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Long-time Grinnellian departs for NYU Abu Dhabi

Assistant Dean Doug Cutchins ’93 will depart this year. Photo by Aaron Juarez.

After 15 years with the College, the Assistant Dean and Director of Post-Graduate Transitions Doug Cutchins ’93 will resign at the end of the 2013-2014 academic year. Cutchins will assume a similar job in the United Arab Emirates at the Abu Dhabi branch of New York University in the fall of 2014.

Cutchins was hired to establish programs for student scholarship advising in the Abu Dhabi branch, which will graduate its first class of seniors this spring. Although Cutchins was initially reluctant to leave Grinnell, he decided that the position and its operational freedom were too good to ignore.

Assistant Dean Doug Cutchins '93 will depart this year. Photo by Aaron Juarez.
Assistant Dean Doug Cutchins ’93 will depart this year.
Photo by Aaron Juarez.

“It’s a lot of what I’ve done in the past at Grinnell, but in a really new context,” Cutchins said. “Professionally, I will have the chance to set up the program the way I want to set it up. They’re giving me a lot of latitude.”

Cutchins is eager to work at an almost brand-new university, in a country and setting that are a far cry from the Poweshiek prairie.

“Abu Dhabi is a start-up organization. It’s only four years old and it only has 700 students,” Cutchins said. “I’ll be going to a four-year old institution from a 164-year old institution, and the expectations are very high.”

As Assistant Dean at Grinnell, Cutchins drew upon his service-oriented experiences to help facilitate post-graduate transitions for graduating Grinnellians.  Upon graduating from Grinnell with a degree in history, Cutchins was among the first cohort of Peace Corps volunteers traveling to Suriname, where he served with his future wife and fellow alum Anne Geissinger ’93. Their shared experiences would lead them to co-author three editions of a book, titled “Volunteer Vacations: Short-Term Adventures That Will Benefit You and Others.”

As an alum, Cutchins is proud of his Grinnell heritage, which he credits with helping him feel comfortable in making these next steps in his career. Cutchins attended the first concert—a disco—at the Harris Center, and he was twice honored by graduating seniors in 2002 and 2009 as an honorary graduate, one of only 12 College employees to receive the award multiple times.

“When I think of Grinnell, home is the first word that comes to mind,” Cutchins said. “In fact, our kids can point out the exact place that my wife and I first met, near Dibble Hall.”

Having spent so much time abroad learning about a wide array of countries and their cultures, Cutchins is looking forward to adapting to a new home and raising his children in an international setting.

“We get to raise our kids internationally, which is a pretty phenomenal opportunity,” Cutchins said. “We will certainly have to adapt linguistically and culturally, and be respectful of cultural norms.”

As far as making a swift and smooth job transition goes, Cutchins is glad that NYU Abu Dhabi is similar to Grinnell in many ways. Based upon the liberal arts model, the school will be need-blind, provide full aid without loans and its goal is to attract and enroll the best students in the world without worrying about their financial situation.

Over the course of his time working for the College, Cutchins feels that his greatest achievements have been his work with the senior DC Posse group and the development of the GrinnellCorps program.

“The best thing about working at Grinnell has been mentoring my senior DC Posse, so it feels really good to be going out with them,” Cutchins said.

Nicole Huffman ’14, a member of that group, is thankful for the role that Cutchins has played in her time here as an advisor and as a friend.

“My Grinnell College experience would not have been the same without Doug, and I cannot imagine Grinnell without him,” Huffman said. “Doug is the epitome of what a mentor and advisor should be … He made our posse of 10 a posse of 11.”

Cutchins helped construct the GrinnellCorps from a group of nascent pieces, and he believes that the program has truly integrated itself as part of Grinnell’s culture.

“We have so many students who are so eager to engage in third-path opportunities, not just jobs or grad school,” Cutchins said. “It demonstrates the creativity that students have and their willingness to go out in the world and engage in creative ways.”

In other words, Cutchins’ journey to the UAE is simply the result of the process coming full-circle.

“I’ve spent 15 years helping students have adventures and explore the world,” Cutchins said. “I’m getting the chance to have my own international adventure, as well, after Grinnell.”

Dean for Career Development Mark Peltz will head the search for Cutchins’ replacement for the fall of 2014.

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