Liz Agosto, Head of Student Affairs, Dean of Students, Steps Down

On Jan. 31, Liz Agosto, dean of students and chief student affairs officer, officially stepped down from her posts at the college. Interim Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer Angie Tissi-Gassoway was named by President Michael Elliott as interim chief student affairs officer.

Liz Agosto, Head of Student Affairs, Dean of Students, Steps Down
Agosto came to Amherst in 2019 as the Dean of Students and replaced Karu Kozuma as Chief Student Affairs Officer in 2021. Photo courtesy of Amherst College.

Liz Agosto, chief student affairs officer and dean of students, officially stepped down from her posts on Tuesday, Jan. 31. She made the decision in order to allow herself greater flexibility to support and care for her family, according to a Jan. 12 email from President Michael Elliott announcing the change.

The chief student affairs officer is responsible for overseeing the functions of the Office of Student Affairs (OSA), which is responsible for all facets of student life. The dean of students typically has a more refined focus within the OSA, managing housing, student activities, and the resource centers, among other areas.

Agosto joined the college as dean of students in June 2019. She assumed her second role atop the OSA after the departure of the previous chief student affairs officer, Karu Kozuma, in 2021.

In an email on Jan. 25, Elliott announced that Angie Tissi-Gassoway, who had spent the past 14 months as interim chief equity and inclusion officer, would serve as chief student affairs officer on an interim basis. No candidate to fill the role of dean of students has yet been announced.

“It is clear that Angie’s insight, integrity, experience, leadership, and ability to build relationships across the College make her an excellent fit for the interim [chief student affairs officer] role and a critical partner in building a truly inclusive and supportive environment for Amherst students and a rich and meaningful community for all of us,” Elliott wrote.

The role of interim chief equity and inclusion officer will be filled by Sheila Jaswal — professor of chemistry, biochemistry and biophysics, and education studies — Elliott announced in an email on Feb. 2. Jaswal previously served as the faculty equity and inclusion officer.

Elliott lauded Agosto in his email announcing her departure. He specifically noted her adaptability in the face of the Covid pandemic, which hit less than a year into her tenure and required her to communicate frequent updates to the college’s Covid protocols to the student body.

“With Liz at the helm, Student Affairs supported our student body during one of the most challenging moments in our institutional history, and she and her team did so with compassion, wisdom, and vision,” Elliott wrote. “Her dedication and commitment during the pandemic was extraordinary, and we all owe her our profound gratitude for all she has done.”

In an email statement to The Student, Agosto explained the difficulty in becoming “the information conduit” to students about the rapidly shifting circumstances of Covid at the college.

“My proudest accomplishment is navigating these complicated circumstances with purpose, humility, humanity, and student-centeredness (even if students didn’t always perceive it that way),” she wrote.

In her time at Amherst, the moments she treasured most, Agosto added, were the face-to-face conversations she had with students.

“Over the last three and a half years, I have had the opportunity to offer hugs, to offer a listening ear to students as they share their pain, to witness moments of reflection during an accountability conversation, to be asked difficult and direct questions, to engage in lively dialogue, and to laugh with pure joy,” Agosto said. “These are the unseen moments that I treasure and that hold a special place in my heart.”

Most of Agosto’s time in the near future will be spent in Vermont, supporting her family through health challenges, but she wrote that in the long-term she hopes to “continue to work in education and support students in their growth, learning, and development.”

“While my time at Amherst has not been what I expected it to be, and it is ending earlier than I had anticipated, I am very grateful for all that I have learned, the relationships I have built, and the students I have supported,” she added. “Thank you for welcoming me and for our journey together. It has been an honor.”