A member of the Concord Academy community since the fall of 2000, Acting Director of Student Life Sally Zimmerli will soon become the next dean of students. Zimmerli began her CA career as a history teacher, house parent, and basketball coach, and has also served as the school’s first director of residential life and as part of the Academic Support Center. She lives on campus with her husband, Tim Seston, sons Charlie, 12, Luke, 8, and Owen, 8, and dog Casey, 2. In an interview with the magazine, she reflected on her years at CA, her excitement about her new role, and her style of leadership.
What led you to be interested in this position?
I was asked to step in as acting director of student life, and found I really enjoyed it. A lot of the job is to get to know all students in a deep way, and to impact student culture pretty powerfully. One of the things I realized I felt comfortable doing was working with students to initiate the kinds of changes they wanted. Empowering students to take control of the school in positive ways was something I found I was effective at and enjoyed — and I was feeling ready for a new challenge.
What’s the most exciting aspect of the new role?
I’m excited to think more broadly with student leaders about their dreams for CA. What’s the school they want to create and to leave as their legacy?
What changes do you foresee in the next few years?
We have so many great things happening in the next couple of years with the renovations to student houses. I’m excited to see how those play into creating a more vibrant life for both day and boarding students. I think they will add a lot to community life.
What do you think will be the biggest challenges?
The unknown. (She laughs.) There are so many things that come up each day, and some you just can’t anticipate. But there’s such a strong team, so I’m not ever doing anything alone. One challenge is the need to constantly teach, and foster, and reteach some of our deepest beliefs. Common trust isn’t something everyone believes, or thinks can work, and it doesn’t work if you have even one person who messes with it. We always have to work with students on how to create the environment they want.
What’s your favorite student life tradition?
It’s hard to choose just one, but the junior leadership retreat (an overnight at a conference center) is one of my favorites. It brings rising leaders together to understand that they’re going to have some power, and that with power comes the responsibility to do good.