Joe Boehman records a podcast episode at his desk


When plan A doesn't work

We eavesdrop as Joe Boehman, dean of Richmond College, records an episode of Deanology, his podcast. It helps students navigate the challenges and opportunities that come with the college experience — and life beyond.

On a Tuesday afternoon right after spring break, Joe Boehman, dean of Richmond College, set up his microphone to record another episode of his podcast, Deanology: Good Stuff from a College Dean. This episode was about what happens when plan A doesn’t work. His advice: Don’t be afraid of plan B, C, or X. It’s fitting advice from someone who calls himself “a man without a plan.”

Before Deanology, Boehman’s plan A was How to College, which he envisioned as a semester-long course aimed at new students. He taught a short-term version of it for pre-orientation from 2016 to 2021. But he found the roles of dean and professor to be incompatible for him.

“If you want to do something right, you’ve got to put your full energy into it,” Boehman said. “I could not envision a world where I’m getting ready to teach a class, a student comes in in crisis, and I have to say, ‘Can you come back tomorrow?’”

He shelved the idea for a couple of years until his daughter, a current UR student, suggested creating a podcast. Boehman had already been recording brief videos on the Richmond College Instagram called “Good Morning, Spiders.” A podcast, though a medium unfamiliar to him, was an opportunity to revisit his idea.

He was, in other words, moving to plan B. This adaptability has been a strength throughout his career. It’s prepared him to support several generations of students and given him the flexibility to overcome challenges like the shift to remote learning during the pandemic. In over 30 years of meeting with students, he never relies on a single framework to resolve each student’s issue. Instead, he figures out a solution using one of the most important life lessons he’s learned: “Listen more than you talk. If you just be chill, the answer will present itself.”

After all, that lesson brought him to UR, which wasn’t his plan either. On his first day as Richmond College dean, his wife told him that she had always seen him as the dean of a small college. Her remark evoked a memory from graduate school when he discussed his career plans in class and saw the same potential in himself.

Now, sitting in his office and recording his podcast, Boehman is right where he’s meant to be. As he ended the episode, his parting words echoed his own journey to UR: “Keep yourself open to the possibility that what’s going to come next for you might be exactly what you’re looking for.”

It took a little listening to others — and his inner voice — for him to find his way. Each time he sets up his microphone, he hopes he can be that person for someone else.