Faculty Alumnus Spotlight: Dustin Meltzer
Get to know the man behind the camera
One year ago, Dustin Meltzer became the Associate Director of Communications at Kimball Union. Most students, however, prefer to call him the “instagram guy” or “cameraman”; he is in charge of all Kimball Union’s social media accounts and maintenance of KUA’s public image. As a member of class of 2005, he left the Hilltop…..but after speaking with him, it became clear that he never really left.
I took the chance to have a conversation with him about the transition from student to faculty at KUA.
SC: First of all, what was KUA like for you as a student? What did you do after you graduated from KUA?
DM: I graduated in 2005, and while I was here, I was really into studying theater — I did 11 seasons of theater, and one season of art activity. We used to have spring theater, so I would do that too. I was mostly worked backstage, stage managing and working on the set. But I acted [in] my senior in a comedy called Brighton Beach Memoirs. I also took a lot of photography classes while I was here, which was darkroom photography. The darkroom used to be where the jewelry studio is now and it was named after Dana Stone, the photographer from Vietnam that we have been talking about a bit lately.
After I graduated from KUA, I went to Denison University where I continued studying theater and photography. Throughout college, I had a part-time job working at J. Crew. I graduated college with a degree in theater directing and moved to Chicago, where I continued to work for J. Crew and climbed through the ranks a little bit and became a personal stylist with them. After living in Chicago for 5 years I became really interested in fashion design through my work, so I went and spent a year in London at London College of Fashion, studying fashion design and also working at J. Crew. When I finally came back to the Upper Valley, I worked at the J. Crew store in Hanover as a manager there. I did that for two years before this position at KUA became available.
Actually, I have always wanted to work at KUA. Even right after I graduated from college, I wanted to work at KUA. It wasn’t quite the right time, but what I wanted to do then is actually what I am doing now: taking campus photos, doing social media. So, it all came full circle.
SC: So what makes KUA so appealing?
DM:The community and the students are incredible. A lot of my former teachers are still here, and several of my classmates are teachers here as well. Mr. Rogers is my very best friend in the world, and it is great to be here with him and Ms. C. Working with people you care about everyday is [so rewarding and it’s] also great to work in a place where every member of community is interested in [achieving]the same goal.
So, everybody cares about the students, everyone is intellectual, and everybody has diverse, deep interests that are fascinating. There are so many people in our community who know so much. When you are part of the KUA community, you get to spend time with all these interesting students and teachers who provide these opportunities for you to learn all the time.
I also have a personal connection with the school: my dad went here, my grandmother went here, my great-grandfather went here, and a lot of other members of my family have been students at KUA dating back to the mid 1800s. So it is rare that anybody has the opportunity to work in a place that is so connected to their family. I really enjoy that.
SC: How do you feel being a faculty at KUA instead of a student?
DM: Some days, it feels not that much different. Because of what I get to do, I do spend a lot of time in a lot of different places doing a lot of different things. I get to attend All School Meeting twice a week, which feels very much the same as being a student. I get to pop in and out of people’s classes all the time, and I get to spend evenings in the dorms. And I get to be part of the weekend team. And a lot of that feels good.
The school is a little bit different now, definitely better than I was a student here. There seems to be a bigger focus now on leadership than when I was a student here. As a result, I find it is a lot easier to get to know everybody, especially the students. Even though I don’t have advisees, I get to work with students closely and learn students’ interests. And it is a really good feeling.
SC: Have there been any changes to the school or campus that have impressed you?
DM: When I was a student here, the campus center didn’t exist. The doors that lead to the balcony [in the dining hall] — you would walk out of those into the grass. That addition to the campus center is incredible. The library is a facility that we have never seen before — it’s beautiful. I find myself [appreciating] the way that the library is laid out; it is so conducive to learning, and it lends itself to so many different learning styles.
But I also see the way that students hang out in the library, and they hang out in Doe. That’s something that didn’t really happen when I was a student here; the Makerspace was the library and the layout of that space didn’t really lend itself to spending time there very well. You would kind of go in there and do your work and leave. Both Doe and library right now are the space that the students want to to be.
There are little things that have been different — dress code, for instance. The dress code now is a lot different from when I was a student here, and I think the way [it used to be] was actually really beneficial to me. It was a lot stricter. [We had to wear] ties every day, no polo shirts; shirts had to be tucked in, no sneakers, leather shoes every day and clean shave every day [were required]. Nice haircut, no piercings – I had to wear a belt every day. No matter what the dress code is, people are gonna push it. And people are trying to get around it. But I think the way I ended up in my career in fashion was largely informed by having a dress code at KUA. I think that was very beneficial for me. It is a lot more relaxed now, and maybe I am just old-fashioned, but I just kind of prefer the other way.
One other big change that happened while I was a student (and I still see the benefit right now) was we transitioned from our old headmaster to Mr. Schafer. My first two years we had Mr. Knox as headmaster — he was great. He had a big focus on being on campus, and he — like Mr. Schafer — knew every student by name and was very personable. And he also taught a class, which I thought was really cool. He taught an English class, and I think it was only a spring elective, but he was somebody [that] you saw him at every meal. He was at every All School Meeting. I think a lot of the changes that we have been talking about have been a result of the work that Mr. Schafer does, sometimes off campus and sometimes networking and connecting the school to the outside world.
SC: So what was your favorite part of KUA when you were a student?
DM: Spending time in Flick was definitely my favorite thing to do at KUA. I mean, I was there all the time for theater and we used to have a position called the “Flick host.” It was a student leadership position; Mr. Rogers was one, and I was one. The idea was that when we had outside performers or speakers come in, you were the student to connect with those people and make sure all of their needs were met.
The Flick host would make sure the lights were ready for All School Meeting, and they would make sure the sound was working. They would have access to the booth, and they would make sure the space was locked and taken care of. It was just this leadership role that is very important to me. I think it gave us a lot of pride in that building. There is a lot of “Flick pride.” And I really enjoyed being a part of that. It is definitely something that when I went off to college, the experience that I had from working in the theater, everything in that room was something that I brought with me. It was a really big benefit.
I also really loved being a boarding student here. Even though, if I look back, all of my closest friends were day students, I loved living on campus. The independence that I got from having my own room and taking care of my own space was really important. When I got to college, I just felt ready and settled. I saw a lot of people who were nervous and scared, and didn’t know how to socialize and do basic stuff like washing their laundry or study or homework. Because I was a boarding student here, it was just easy for me to walk in the room, put my stuff away, and be ready to go.
SC: Is there any activity or program that was cut or lost from the time when you were a student?
DM: Yeah, there are a couple of things we don’t have anymore. The big one that people always talk about is football. We used to have a football team and Mr. McMahon was the coach during my time here. We had one of the longest high school football rivalries in American boarding school history with Vermont Academy.
And we also had a wrestling team. There are other things that come and go with interests, like the Meridian magazine, that kind of came back last year. That was consistent [when I was here]. There was also printed school newspaper which would come out either every other week or every month.
We used to have a nighttime security guard; his name was Dominic Rullo. We called him “Nick at Night” and he would be on campus from 7 p.m. until 1 a.m. He would be just patrolling campus, making sure doors were locked. He was a total character. We would bump into him and have long conversations with that guy.
SC: Wow, there have been a lot of changes. Thanks for your time. It’s great to have you back on the Hilltop!