Hatt’s off: Dean of students moving on to a new adventure

(Photo: Daniel Wesser)

Nicholas Hatt, Dean of Students at King’s. (Photo: Daniel Wesser)

After about 15 years at King’s, it’s time for Nicholas Hatt to don his hat and move on to a new adventure.

As of Feb. 14, Nicholas Hatt, current dean of students at King’s, will be the new rector of St. George’s Round on Brunswick Street.

Feb. 13 will be Hatt’s last day at King’s. Even though he’s looking forward to something new, he’s also got some great experiences at King’s to look back on.

Hatt was first a student. Then he became a don in 2005. In 2008, he became the dean of students. Originally, his office was behind the Alex Hall front desk.

Hatt graduated from the classics and contemporary studies program at King’s and later went on to become ordained.

Bein’ dean

Being dean of students was a bit different when Hatt started in the position compared to now. His original title was dean of residence, and that was his main responsibility.

“Over the years, there was a growing sense that we have a responsibility not just for residence students but also for day students, so I gradually started to work more and more with some of our day students.”

Hatt has enjoyed working regularly with the Day Students’ Society and other students across campus while dean. That particular society considers him to be pretty great.

“Our true guardian angel and we’re very sad to see him leave, but so happy for him,” says Cédric Blais, president of the Day Students’ Society (DSS).

It’s students like Blais that Hatt has had the chance to get to know over the years.

“One of the aspects of my position that has always been the highlight is working with students. I love it. You’re always learning new things and students are always sharing with you what’s going on in their studies and in their lives,” says Hatt.

And it seems the students love him back.

“(He’s) the kindest, sweetest human being there is. An absolute heart of gold. He’s the most helpful, even in the hardest situations.

“From what I’ve heard, everyone in general seems to adore Nick Hatt. I don’t think I’ve ever heard an unpopular opinion about him. He’s someone everyone looks to whenever they’re in need,” says Blais.

Hatt’s main responsibility is to the students, particularly first-year students and those in residence, making sure that “students are thriving in their school and personal lives.”

“The main mission of the university is the academic mission,” says Hatt. “My work as dean of students is always in relation to the academic programs and trying to find ways to support their work so students can engage fully.”

If Hatt has any regrets, it’s that he didn’t get to spend a lot of time with people “just getting to know them.”

“Where I’ve really loved this community the most is when I get to do that.”

A yearly highlight for Hatt is the Easter vigil in the chapel, held at midnight.

“It brings together such a diverse crowd of people of various faiths, people of no faiths and people who simply want to come together and join as a community and a college.”

Blais hopes to keep seeing Hatt around at events like this.

“I’m sure he’ll still be going at those chapel parties. I think it would be a shame to just lose touch with him. I’m looking forward to seeing him on campus,” he says.

Hatt is in for a new adventure, but it isn’t entirely unfamiliar. He’s known the parish of St. George’s for years. It’s one with many King’s connections. There are King’s students that work with community outreach programs or worship there, as do some professors and faculty members. 

Even though he already knows many of the people within the St. George’s community, Hatt is looking forward to the new connections he’ll be making as rector.

“One of the things I’m also looking forward to is working with people in the area.”

Nicholas Hatt, fourth from the left in the top row, during his time as a student at King's

Nicholas Hatt, fourth from the left in the top row, during his time as a student at King’s.

The position

Hatt has been taking care of a small parish and small church about 40 minutes away in Mount Uniacke for about two and a half years now, so he already has some experience.

To get the position at St. George’s, Hatt had to go through interviews and be approved by the Archbishop of Nova Scotia and P.E.I.

St. George’s holds many of the same values as Hatt has carried while working at King’s.

“It has a tremendous sense of obligation to its local community. That is one of the most important things for me.”

“One of the reasons I wanted to work at King’s was for the same reason. Here we are dedicated to living together and living in unity together,” says Hatt. “It’s a very local situation, and this parish that I’m going to has this same sense.”

King’s replacement

Bill Lahey, president of King’s, says finding a suitable replacement for Hatt will be difficult. They’re looking for somebody who understands the way in which the academic experience and the community are woven together at King’s, he says.

“Somebody who has the knowledge of the history of King’s and the importance of residential life at King’s or has other experiences that will allow them to catch hold of that relatively quickly.

“In other words, someone who wants the college and the life of the college to be a big part of their life.”

Blais agrees.

“I think that the best thing that we could have is someone who’s as kind and open-minded as he is. Someone who, short of having all that (institutional) knowledge still has that attitude of ‘everything is going to be fine…’,” says Blais. “If his replacement is capable of having that attitude, then, in the long run, we’ll recover.”

A committee to find a new dean of students has been established, chaired by Peter O’Brien, vice president of King’s.

The committee is made up of O’Brien, Julie Green from the registrar’s office, faculty member Susan Dodd, staff member Sharlene Salter and two students, King’s Students’ Union student life VP Lianne Xiao and Blais of the DSS.

They’ll be looking for someone who can be responsible for students in residence, but also day students, someone who can hire and manage dons on campus and work closely with the Chaplain and others on anything related to student life, among other things.

“And above and beyond all that, looks out for students,” says Lahey. Someone that students can come to talk with about what’s going well, or what problems and difficulties they’re having.”

Lahey says there will likely not be a permanent replacement right away and someone will have to fill in during the intervening period.

“We’ll have to make arrangements for ensuring that the functions of the dean of students are attended to between Hatt’s departure and the commencement of employment of the new dean.”

Lahey is optimistic that King’s will eventually have another great dean, but it’s going to be hard to see Hatt go.

“I really admire him. I know the students have tremendous respect for him, he’s made very important contributions to the college,” says Lahey. “I really appreciate the advice he’s given to me. I came to the community as somebody from outside and Nick Hatt has been one of my more important guides in understanding what makes King’s tick.”

Even though he won’t be on campus all the time, Hatt will somehow make his way back.

“This is a wonderful place, and I’m not going very far.”