New Women's College Dean, Debra Dobkins

‘Communicator’ Dobkins Steers Women’s College

At the alumni reunion last April, Brenau President Ed Schrader, speaking from the terrace outside Hopkins Dining Hall, introduced to the assemblage of mostly Women’s College graduates a person whom he described as “someone you are all going to want to meet.” Actually, many – particularly those who had graduated in the past decade and a half – probably already knew Dr. Debra Dobkins as an English professor and head of the Writing Center. But with the new academic year, Schrader announced, Dobkins also would assume the mantle as dean of the Women’s College at Brenau.

Just a few weeks into the new job, Dobkins – whose entire academic career has revolved around good writing – says on her watch there will be no let-up at the Women’s College on improving students’ communications skills. “All the research that you see today says that communications skills are among the top two or three most desired skills that prospective employers want to see,” Dobkins says. “We will continue to regard communications as a major emphasis at Brenau as it has always been.”

Click below to listen to an interview
with Dr. Debra Dobkins on WBCX FM.

That, however, is not the only issue as the 134-year-old single gender institution prepares to celebrate a milestone anniversary in 2013. Dobkins’ full plate also contains seeking ways to get current students more engaged with alumnae in mentoring, job shadowing and life skills development scenarios as part of the academic process and to open Women’s College doors wider to nonresidential undergraduates, particularly those who may have delayed their educations to raise a family or get a job – the so-called “nontraditional student.”

“I was one of those who went back to college after having a family and working in a full-time job,” says Dobkins, who has undergraduate and graduate degrees from Agnes Scott College and a Ph.D.  from the University of Georgia. “I know what courage and determination it takes for a woman who has been managing a home, a facility, a job, and other things in life to come to school. I am constantly amazed at how they excel. They put their hearts into it.”

Both the non-traditionals and other commuter “day students” in the Women’s College “need to become more involved in every aspect of the Women’s College experience,” she said. “Just because they do not have a bedroom on campus does not mean that they are not a vital part of our campus community.”

Strong words? Perhaps, but the central focus of Dobkins’ academic career has been not only studying strong words, like those of her favorite female southern authors, but also teaching others how to make their words stronger. Dobkins founded the Writing Center at Brenau, which last year conducted some 2,500 tutorials to help students improve their communications skills.

“Women can find themselves here,” she says in an unabashed commercial for single-gender education. “A Brenau Women’s College student is a person with a face and a name, not a number. If she wants to be involved in the college experience at every level, this is the place to do it.”


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