As the University prepares for the start of a new semester, students will see a new face leading the office of the dean of students — longtime University employee Julie Caruccio, who stepped into the role July 1. Caruccio replaces former Dean of Students Allen Groves, who now serves at Syracuse University after 14 years at U.Va.
A Charlottesville native, Caruccio grew up around Grounds, following around her father, a University professor in the history department, for nearly 30 years before enrolling in the University herself. While an undergraduate, Caruccio was a Delta Delta Delta Sorority sister, a Riding Team member and a jazz DJ for the Charlottesville radio station WTJU. She also worked at Wayside Deli, located off Jefferson Park Ave, and recalls the Corner shops with fond memories.
“The Corner has changed lots since I graduated — no Bodo’s, Boylan, Christian’s, Trinity or Roots — but, of the spots still there, I’d have to say the Virginian and the White Spot would be my favorites,” Caruccio said.
Caruccio was a residential advisor in the old Tuttle dormitory — formerly located where Gibbons dormitory is now, across from the Aquatic and Fitness Center — and it was there that she met Pat Lampkin, then-vice president of student affairs for the University, who helped Caruccio realize she wanted to pursue a career in higher education.
Graduating from the College of Arts and Sciences with an undergraduate degree in history and American studies in 1994, Caruccio then took some time away from Grounds, receiving her Master’s in Higher Education and Student Affairs from the University of Vermont, before returning back to Charlottesville in 2003. When she returned, she began working as the director of the Graduate Fellowship Program at the Jefferson Scholars Foundation, helping outstanding scholars pursue higher education with financial support and career boosters. In 2006, she moved to Student Affairs, where she has served as an assistant vice president and associate dean of students in the Office of the Dean of Students ever since.
While the pandemic caused fluctuating restrictions and virtual classes and activities, the University is set to resume all in person classes — with a mask requirement — for the fall 2021 semester following a successful vaccine rollout and a decrease in positive cases in the University community.
Caruccio’s main goal as interim dean of students is to ensure that students are able to come back to a safe environment in the fall.
“We will have to recreate ways to be with one another, to find what sociologist Emile Durkheim called ‘collective effervescence,’ or the joy of a group of people coming together for a shared purpose,” Caruccio said.
She noted the difficulty many faculty and staff face returning to in-person learning after over a year where the majority of classes were held remotely, and asks that everyone have patience. Furthermore, she emphasized that the University is not simply resuming what was put on hold for these past three semesters, but entering a completely new chapter of in-person learning that will take time and adjustments.
“Giving one another — and ourselves — grace as we make these adjustments will be important, as we will all make mistakes,” Caruccio said. “‘Be kind always’ is one of my mottos, and I think it will be really important this fall.”
When asked if Caruccio would take on this role as a permanent position, she said, “It’s a great question — right now I’m completely focused on getting us open and welcoming students back … and I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.”
Robyn Hadley, vice president and chief student affairs officer, is leading the search for the next permanent dean of students.