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It’s Not Easy Being Dean

But Laura Belmonte makes sure to take a lighthearted approach to her work — and her life.

Laura Belmonte’s office
William Howard Taft, better known as Willy (seated at desk), is one of two mascots Dean Laura Belmonte brought with her when she assumed leadership of the college in August 2019. Photos by David Hungate

When she became dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences in August 2019, Laura Belmonte knew she had real challenges to tackle—and just the toys (and dogs!) for the job. “When you work hard, you should play hard,” she says. “You can be professional and productive and yet still infuse your work life with laughter and whimsy.”

James Madison provides Laura Belmonte with encouragement.
James Madison provides Laura Belmonte with encouragement.
James Madison — the president, not the terrier — shares a shelf with George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
James Madison — the president, not the terrier — shares a shelf with George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
A family photo features Belmonte’s wife, Susie, and their first presidential pup, Truman. Also pictured is a Teddy bear dressed in colonial clothing.
A family photo features Belmonte’s wife, Susie, and their first presidential pup, Truman.
A Hillary Clinton action figure takes a stance near books on higher education; below her are books by the college’s faculty members.
A Hillary Clinton action figure takes a stance near books on higher education; below her are books by the college’s faculty members.
A classic Barrel of Monkeys imprinted with the logo of the Virginia Tech School of Education
The Virginia Tech School of Education is renowned for its fun, logo-imprinted swag, including this classic Barrel of Monkeys.
Artwork of Yoda and Darth Vader campaigning
“I’m both a Star Wars fan and a political junkie,” Belmonte says, “so when I came across artwork of Yoda and Darth Vader campaigning, I had to splurge.”
A Virginia Tech Center for Communicating Science drinking glass in the shape of a beaker
Water tastes best when sipped from a Virginia Tech Center for Communicating Science beaker.
“My toy collection is bipartisan,” says Belmonte, a political historian, about her elephant and donkey decanters and presidential bobbleheads.
“My toy collection is bipartisan,” says Belmonte, a political historian, about her elephant and donkey decanters and presidential bobbleheads.
A pillow that states, “I survived another meeting that should have been an email.”
“Deans have many meetings,” Belmonte says, “so it’s best to keep a sense of humor.”