SEAL Director reflects on decade at Emerson

Director+of+Student+Leadership+Jason+Meier

Photo: Tivara Tanudjaja

Director of Student Leadership Jason Meier

By Frankie Rowley, Deputy Express Editor

Responsible for remaking the college’s relationship to student organizations, keeping his colleagues up-to-date with pop culture, and advising the Student Government Association, Director of Student Engagement and Leadership Jason Meier is set to move across the Charles in January. 

Meier came to Emerson in 2011 as director of the Student Activities Office—which he would eventually revitalize into the Office of Student Engagement and Leadership. He said the decision to leave to take on Associate Dean of Student Engagement at Harvard College was not an easy one, but one he made in order to progress in his career. 

“At some point in everyone’s personal and professional journey, you have to figure out the time when you have to jump, to take the next risk,” Meier, who is set to depart the college on Nov. 19, said in an interview with The Beacon. 

“When I really reflect on my time at Emerson and what I’ve been able to accomplish, I feel really proud of what I’ve done,” he continued. “I’m at that place where I can walk away and feel positive… I’m not sure what else I could do at this stage in this position.”

In his ten years at Emerson, Meier played an influential role in shaping the college’s student engagement office. Alongside figures like Vice President for Campus Life Jim Hoppe and  Associate Vice President for Campus Life Erik Muurisepp, Meier helped shape the structure and missions of SEAL.

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“Ultimately, the philosophy was, ‘we’re here to help,’” Meier said. “There are always rules and policy [regarding student organizations], but [we] educated them in a way that wasn’t pandering, that was done with kindness, that was done in a fun way.”

During his tenure, Meier oversaw the response of student organizations to various external pressures—most memorably, in his eyes, the response to the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.

“While those were really heavy, tough, painful days, I’m so proud of the way we all came together to support people,” he said. 

In order to establish an effective working relationship with students, Meier and former Assistant Director of Student Engagement and Leadership Andrew Donahue attended several trainings on how to manage a student organization, the legal implications of running an organization, and even a training on Campus Labs Engage; the platform used to create Emconnect. 

Meier also helped improve the virtual accessibility of student organizations via EmConnect—a process that would become invaluable after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic suspended in-person org meetings. 

Meier joked about the office’s origins, saying he pushed back on the original name for SEAL. 

“The original name was ‘Student Leadership and Engagements,’” he said. “In my brain, I was just like, ‘No, we have an acronym right there!”

Now, four years after its creation, the SEAL office has grown to include Meier, Director of Campus Centers Joshua Hamlin, and Program Coordinators Jenna Coviello and Chelsea Jackson Jones. 

Coviello, who came to the college a year ago, said Meier had helped foster her professional development by giving her confidence in her new role.  

“I was nervous to start in this position,” she said. “There’s a lot of impostor syndrome, especially when you start a new position…he has always made me feel capable, confident and trusted.”

Hamlin said Meier has worked tirelessly to improve the office and the college as a whole.

“Jason’s been a great colleague and ally in terms of not just working with students, but pushing us all to be better, to do more to look at new perspectives,” he said. “That’s something that I’ve always been very appreciative of.”

Aside from his role at SEAL, Meier has also advised the Student Government Association since spring 2020, guiding the organization through the pandemic and a shift in its operating structure.

“It was such an exciting and invigorating thing because that spring is when we were laser-focused on reimagining what SGA could be and thinking about, ‘How do we legislate? How do we better advocate for the student experience?’” he said. “Getting all of that done was a huge accomplishment… SGA has been a joy.”

Meier said he tried to be aware of the “fine line between advising and supervising”—acknowledging that the organization’s decisions were not his, but its own.

It is this philosophy that Meier says will help SGA thrive even without its advisor. 

“I truly feel those students are self-supportive and have the ability to do great things with or without me,” he said.

Hoppe, who collaborated with Meier on the creation of SEAL and other on-campus initiatives, said Meier’s move is “a very natural next step in his career.”

“He’s very ready to take on this kind of leadership position and to lead a larger team,” Hoppe said. 

Muurisepp, when asked about his favorite memories of Meier, quipped “the ones that can be printed?”

“Jason has been a wonderful colleague, a wonderful staff person to work alongside with and it’s just really been a privilege to be able to work with him,” he said. “I always enjoy our weekly conversations. I always leave those meetings learning something, which I appreciate.”

He said their working relationship is one where they can critique and encourage each other in the work they do.

“We have a good ability to challenge each other,” he said. “To both make each other grow and develop and think about things differently.”

In his new role, Meier said he would continue to work the way he does at Emerson, overseeing a new group of students and organizations. He will be working with student organizations, orientation programming, and college leadership, noting that he is excited to get to work with the Student Organization Center on campus.

Meier added that he is most looking forward to working with his new team at Harvard. 

“They’ve got such a good group of professionals,” he said. “I’m really excited to get to know them and work with them and figure out how to continue to grow and expand their work in their program.”

Muurisepp said he wanted to avoid rushing the search process for Meier’s successor as SEAL director. No plans for replacing Meier have been announced. 

“We’re going to follow the process, include students in that process, and search for the next director of Student Engagement and Leadership that can help us continue to grow on the foundation that [Meier] has provided us,” he said.

Meier said he hopes his successor becomes immersed in Emerson, wanting whoever fills his shoes to get involved in everything they can.

“I would want the new director to walk into this experience at Emerson with an open mind, to attend as many student org events as possible, to get to know people on a one-on-one basis, and create those meaningful personal relationships,” Meier said. “That’s how you can get the work done.” 

Meier said he’ll miss his co-workers in the college’s office of campus life, acknowledging that he has felt nothing but support during his time at the college.

“The Campus Life team in particular has been so great over the years and I think about all that we’ve been able to accomplish in the last 18 months with COVID,” he continued. “It really, truly was a strong team effort. I’m real grateful for that and I also know that those relationships don’t end just because they go across the river.”